Plastic Free Communities

Third Sector • UK

Plastic Free Communities is a grassroots campaign that helps local people work together across different organisations to free where they live from avoidable, throwaway plastic.

Plastic Free Communities' story

Plastic Free Communities is a grassroots campaign, originated by Surfers Against Sewage, that empowers and connects people to free where they live from avoidable, throwaway plastic; from beaches, rivers and green spaces, all the way back to the brands and businesses who create it.

The campaign centres on five objectives to achieve the Plastic Free Communities award:
- Working with the local council
- Encouraging local businesses to reduce single use plastic
- Signing up community groups, schools and organisations
- Holding events and actions
- Setting up a steering group to drive the movement

When Plastic Free Communities launched in 2017 the ambition was clear. 125 communities working on the five-step toolkit above to start freeing where they live from avoidable, single use plastic. This remarkable grassroots action has grown dramatically since then and is achieving the kind of scale needed to turn the tide on plastic pollution.

To date, over 830 communities across the UK are signed up to Plastic Free Communities, with almost 30 million people live in a community working on the campaign. Over 4,500 businesses are enrolled and 230 councils have resolved to reduce plastic usage and support plastic free initiatives. In addition, almost 17,000 people are estimated to volunteer for the campaign in their local communities.

Plastic is being reduced at an estimated rate of 43 million items per year, two-thirds of which is directly attributable to this campaign.

Pembrey Sands beach in Wales. Photograph: Paul Quayle

Useful learnings from Plastic Free Communities

The effectiveness of the campaign is based on mobilising the whole community, working across sectors – local government, independent businesses, community groups, schools and more – to address failing systems.

Being accredited 'Plastic Free Community' status as part of the program is a tangible goal that helps to build a consistent foundation across different communities. It is designed to be a rolling award that forms the basis of action each year and encourages ongoing participation.

There is good evidence the campaign is having a positive impact on community cohesion too. People involved have a greater sense of feeling like they belong in their neighbourhood, 80% said they felt more connected to nature and their local environment, and they are considerably more likely to spend time outdoors than the population in general.

Plastic Free Communities' metrics

Build on the Plastic Free Communities council motion
Engage local MPs
Increase the number of plastic free business champions in the local community
Encourage existing plastic free business champions to deepen their actions
Increase community allies to involve more people
Support Plastic Free Schools program
Hold at least three community events to raise awareness and take action
Contribute to national campaigns through local events and actions
Form a steering group and meet quarterly to drive the campaign forward

Feeling inspired? Discover more about this story...

Action Area

Circular Economy



Response to climate crisis



Nation, Town


Third Sector, over 10,000 people

Shared by

Carbon Copy

Updated Nov, 2023

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