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What it takes to achieve 'plastic-free' status

Words by Smiley Team

In May 2022, Exmoor became the first national park to receive a plastic-free status. 

They received the title from Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), which aims to recognise the efforts made by people who live and work in the park to tackle throw away plastic. It’s estimated that more than 40 organisations across the park committed to reducing their plastic usage.

Peter Hoyland works at the National Park Centre in Dunster – he’s also the Plastic Free Exmoor community lead. So, how did they achieve this status?

“It was quite a big operation,” he tells Smiley News. “We signed up a couple of years ago, and we were set a target – we had 5 key things to do.”

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Peter says they had to get council support; set up a steering group; recruit business community champions; recruit community allies; as well as run a series of events that promoted the plastic-free cause. 

“It was brilliant,” he says, “and the community were so keen to get involved. We’re delighted to be the first National Park to gain this status. We really hope it will spur on others, too.”

Peter says anyone, including villages, communities and schools, can get involved and become plastic-free. 

Over the next 12 months, Peter says Exmoor is working with SAS to set new plastic-free targets – including holding beach cleans and litter picks.

“We simply want to reduce the amount of single-use plastic,” he says, “there is so much single use – more than ever before in society, and it’s difficult to recycle – or it will end up in landfill. Recent research has shown it’s entering the food system, and also microplastics have been detected in human blood.

"Everything we’re doing to reduce ithas got to help the environment, wildlife and us.”

Inspired to act?

GO PLASTIC-FREE: Find out what it takes to become a plastic-free community.

SUPPORT: You can support SAS, the marine conservation charity driving forward this mission. 

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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