Swale Friends of the Earth volunteers after collecting plastic waste

How we campaigned on plastics in Swale

Swale Friends of the Earth wins Earthmovers award for a campaign on plastic waste.
  Published:  16 May 2019    |      2 minute read

Organised by Friends of the Earth and supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Earthmovers Awards recognise the inspiring work of local environmental groups in their communities. Anna Stanford and Amanda Thesiger from Swale Friends of the Earth spoke to us about their successful local campaigning on plastics.

Swale Friends of the Earth volunteers after their litter pick in the rain
Swale Friends of the Earth volunteers pick up plastic waste
Credit: Swale Friends of the Earth

Amanda: "We organised a large litter pick event on Faversham creek, which is a site on the North Kent Marshes. Part of the site is a RAMSAR protected wetland, and a Site of Scientific and Special Interest (SSSI).

"It’s a beautiful habitat home to rare species such as the hog's fennel plant and the endangered shrill carder bee.

Shrill carder bee feeding on flower
Shrill carder bee feeding on flower
Credit: Ivan Leidus

"We collected over 50 bags of waste, and about half of those were full of plastic. We wanted to show people that plastic waste can blow across the marshes, the Swale river and out into the ocean.

"We followed this event with a stall at the summer Nautical Festival in Faversham. We had a little paddling pool which we set up like a ‘hook the duck’ game for children.

"The difference was we put bottles and plastic bags in with the sea creatures so that children had to fish out the plastic waste to help the animals.

"It looked like an innocent thing, but actually had a much bigger message. It got the kids interested and while they were playing we were able to talk to the parents about the issues.

Children enjoy fishing plastic waste out of the 'sea'
Children at Swale Friends of the Earth plastics summer fair event
Credit: Anna Stanford/Friends of the Earth

Active in our local community

Anna: "Our group is really cohesive and supportive. It’s been around a long time and that helps us to have a good reputation in the community.

"I think we're effective because we have a lot of skills and experience within our membership. We really draw on that.

"For example we’ve got a member who’s a GP and knows about the impact of air pollution on children’s lungs, and a geographer who has studied projections of sea level rises in our area.

Anna Stanford Swale Friends of the Earth
Anna Stanford Swale Friends of the Earth
Credit: Connor O'Hara/Friends of the Earth

"We find that with a good prop, like the duck game, we can really engage people.

"For our climate change campaign we have 3 giant globes that we use to show people what the effects of climate change will be. We also have maps of the Swale area which show what it will look like in the coming centuries with rising sea levels.

"We ask people to look for their house on the map, and of course some people are really shocked.

Positive solutions

"Most importantly we want to try and engage people and help them understand the steps they can take to make a difference.

"We’ve supported several local windfarm applications locally, and built alliances with other local groups such as Plastic Free Faversham, the Wildlife Trusts and Greenpeace.

People in Faversham and Swale really love the area. They love the wildlife. A lot of people already know what the problems are, they just want to know what the solutions are.Anna Stanford

Amanda: "We both work freelance which allows us to chop up our time into ever smaller chunks.

"I’m always rushing about, and have about 3 different versions of myself which I’m constantly moving between.

"But somehow we find the energy to keep going. I feel so passionately about the issues and it’s inspiring when good things happen.

"We really can achieve a lot."

Amanda Thesiger, Swale Friends of the Earth
Amanda Thesiger, Swale Friends of the Earth
Credit: Connor O'Hara/Friends of the Earth