Devon County Council will phase out its use of the most polluting single-use plastic products within two years.
Members of the Council’s Cabinet voted unanimously to support to the move, which is part of a new action plan to help cut the amount of single-use plastic waste in Devon.
The ‘Plastics Strategy’ outlines how various single-use plastic food and beverage packaging and tableware (such as cutlery and cups) will be removed from Council work locations by 2020.
It also summarises how the Council will use its position and responsibility to raise awareness of the issues surrounding single-use plastics and encourage and support collective action across the county.
Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environmental Services, said: “Waste and recycling is a major concern for the people of Devon, and we are proud to be one of the top performing authorities when it comes to recycling the waste we collect. We want to build on this success and help tackle the unnecessary use of single-use plastics in Devon.
“I am pleased that my council colleagues have shown so much support for our plan. Their unanimous vote today demonstrations to our partners, businesses and communities that we take this issue seriously and are keen to set a good example of what can be done.
“It is vital that we all work towards adopting more sustainable practices to better protect our environment.”
The strategy, which is the first of its kind for a county council has received support from marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage ‘Plastic Free Coastlines’ campaign.
James Harvey, Surfers Against Sewage Campaign Officer, said: "This is fantastic news for the environment and sends a great message of support to communities, businesses, schools and community groups across the county who are working hard to reduce or eliminate avoidable single-use plastics.
“County councils are in a unique position to lead change on plastic pollution, as shown by the level of vision and ambition contained in the plastics strategy being unveiled today.
“We hope other councils will be inspired to emulate Devon County Council's strategic approach because plastic pollution is no longer just a litter issue that we can pick our way out of. It’s a system-wide pollution issue that requires bold, unified action such as this.”
The action was inspired by a plea from two children from Georgeham C of E Primary School who gave a presentation to Devon’s Cabinet in December calling on councillors to do everything they could to cut plastic in the environment. The North Devon primary school was the first school in the UK to achieve the Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Schools status.
Head Teacher for Georgeham CofE Primary School, Julian Thomas, said: “Our school is thrilled that Devon County Council is moving forwards so rapidly with this issue. The children are very aware of plastic pollution in our global community; they experience it far too often and they showed great confidence in wanting to do something about it. It's good to know that the children's ambitions for looking after the environment are heard and taken seriously. We think that that the new action plan is a great strategy to reduce and further remove single-use plastics and the children will be inspired to do similar actions in the future... which is what we all want!”
With 12 objectives across four themes the strategy and action plan covers everything from changes within the organisation to working with suppliers and contractors to minimise the consumption of single-use plastics. It also sets out how the Council will use its network of relationships and various partnerships to engage people in the issues surrounding single-use plastics and encourage communities to act to reduce waste.
As part of the plan the Council will become a member of the Plastic Pollution Coalition - the organisation which represents all the environmental bodies promoting going plastic free.
A copy of the strategy, along with the action plan, is available on the Council’s website.