Friends of the Earth has the biggest network of grassroots environmental activism groups in the UK. There are 157 local groups with an average of 42 volunteer members. Here's a selection of what some of them have been doing on our #PlasticFree campaign.
Chester & District litter pick
Chester & District Friends of the Earth has decided to run regular clean-up days as part of the #PlasticFreeChester campaign. The group wants to see the city turn its back on single-use plastics.
One of the best days was held at Countess of Chester Park in April where around 30 local volunteers turned out to help.
"Most of the rubbish was plastic - drinks cartons, sweet packs, takeaway containers and plastic bags," says Helen Tandy, Chester & District group co-ordinator, who is also a Climate Ambassador for the Women's Institute.
Gosport & Fareham get inspired by a beach clean
Gosport & Fareham Friends of the Earth has around 12 active members of various ages. They went out one cold January morning to clean up Warsash beach and were shocked by the amount of plastic waste they discovered.
They decided to use the rubbish to create artwork that highlights the connection between disposable plastic and damage to marine ecosystems.
The group spent hours cleaning the plastic before turning it into collages of fish, octopuses and jellyfish.
“Much of the litter we found wasn't dropped at the beach but was everyday plastic waste such as cotton bud sticks,” says Tim Pratt, who works in telecoms and acts as the group's co-ordinator.
“Although people may think they’re disposing of waste properly, this shows how easily plastic waste can find its way to the ocean.”
The Gosport & Fareham group also made efforts to get Fareham Borough Council to adopt a motion banning single-use plastics across council buildings and events. Although the council initially rejected the idea, it was adopted this year after a councillor put forward a similar motion.
“It shows how ahead of the curve we were in pushing for plastic-free to be on the agenda,” says Tim.
Leicester builds a plastic waste sea monster
The volunteers at Leicester Friends of the Earth believe they were also ahead of the curve. They held one of their most successful plastic-free actions on the same weekend that millions of people sat down to watch BBC's Blue Planet 2.
The group invited passers-by and children at Leicester’s Highcross shopping centre to create a kraken – a legendary sea monster – out of plastic rubbish. While the children were busy sticking old bits of bottles and food containers onto a chicken wire skeleton, the group chatted to parents about every day plastic use.
“We gave people simple ideas about how to reduce plastic waste, such as re-usable coffee cups, water bottles and shopping bags,” says Hannah Wakley, group co-ordinator.
The group was quick to capitalise on the fact that the workshop was on 31 October. They worked a few puns into promotional materials such as ‘Make sure plastic waste doesn’t come to haunt you’. And they asked shoppers to make pledges about cutting their consumption of plastic.
“It was good to do it in a shopping centre as it meant we met a broad range of people. Often people said they were concerned about plastic waste but had never really thought about their own habits," says Hannah.
More plastic-free ideas
There are lots more great ideas from our unique network of local groups.
Camden Friends of the Earth visited Camden Market to look for ways for stallholders and shoppers to reduce plastic waste, including the idea of re-usable water bottles and food containers.
St Alban's Friends of the Earth held a plastic-free family picnic in a local park as part of the launch of Plastic Free St Albans.
The New Forest local group organised a children's art competition and Pembrokeshire Friends of the Earth has been working to set up a local plastic bottle deposit scheme.
Find your local Friends of the Earth group
Does plastic waste make you sick? If you'd like to be part of our amazing network of dedicated local volunteers, you can find your nearest group here.
Or sign the petition to keep plastic from choking our oceans.