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Norwichs drive to become a plastic-free city

Members on Norwich City Council last month unanimously supported a Green Party motion, which called for greater efforts to deal with the issue of single-use plastics (SUPs) in the city.

My hope is that Norwich will become a pioneer as a plastic-free city and as Greens we believe that the council can take a lead on this matter.

I am hoping for swift action on removing SUP items like disposable cups from water coolers in the council’s own buildings, and I would like to see an end to SUPs at other council-run premises, such as Norwich’s famous market, by the end of next year.

To offset any added expense traders might incur, I will be calling on the council to look at bulk-buying more sustainable, biodegradable packaging, cutlery, cups, etc. and providing them at a subsidised cost to traders for at least six months, while they adjust to the new policy.

Although it is far too early to provide definite figures about how much this policy will save or cost the local economy in Norwich, it is clear that the environmental benefits could be enormous, especially if the charge on plastic bags is anything to go by.

Before the UK government decided to introduce a small charge for carrier bags in larger shops in 2015, over 7.6 billion single-use plastic bags were given to customers by major supermarkets in England annually – about 140 bags per person.

In the first six months following the introduction of the 5p charge, the number of plastic bags issued fell by 85% – well above the government’s most optimistic predictions, and testimony to how a very small change in policy can have a very large and positive effect on the environment.

The local authority needs to be careful that when looking into alternative materials for packaging, such as those derived from bamboo or sugar cane, these ‘bioplastics’ do not use more fossil fuels to produce than conventional plastics

It is important to remember that there is considerable precedent for this move. New York City is fighting to join a number of other American cities in introducing such a policy, and in some cases action is being taken at a national level. France, for instance, is seeking to end the use of SUPs by the end of the decade.

Plastics, in particular styrofoam packaging, have been going out of favour for several decades, with Berkeley, California outlawing them as early as the 1980s; and today there is a growing popular demand for action to do what is best for our planet. Green Party councillors on Norwich City Council were pleased to follow in the footsteps of others and support such an initiative.

However, we do need to appreciate that this is simply a first step and while disposable cups may soon no longer be available for councillors and city council employees at meetings, the wider changes outlined in this motion will take some time to implement.

Indeed, the local authority needs to be careful that when looking into alternative materials for packaging, such as those derived from bamboo or sugar cane, these ‘bioplastics’ do not use more fossil fuels to produce than conventional plastics.

As a result, we would prefer citizens of Norwich to reduce their plastic consumption and reuse containers wherever possible; where this is not an option, we need to ensure that there is a less harmful alternative to SUPs. We hope to work with residents and local businesses to come up with a strategy that works.

I am aware that this motion is only the first stage of a much longer process towards making Norwich a cleaner and more sustainable city, but it does demonstrate the impact that local authorities can and should have in creating a better future for ourselves and future generations.

Photo by woodleywonderworks

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Claire Marcham
Claire Marcham
5 months ago

It is clear that we need more dedicated recyling and public bins around Norwich and in the suburbs so that we can throw sorted debris away. Every catering business should be asked to recycle cans.
We should have those people having to do community service pick and sort rubbish instead of constantly cutting back planted shrubs and trees. I walk round a park and ride where the lower branches of trees and the undergrowth is constantly attacked on a weekly basis then piled up. I am afraid they will be hauled away just after they have become habitat.
I feel power saws should be banned unless owners are properly educated about what nature requires to survive.
People without homes in Norwich could be allocated wheelie bins for their possessions that would be padlocked closed and chained up, perhaps near the market or near the police station. We could even consider erecting ‘beech huts’ for the homeless near facilities (on wheels perhaps) and also provide some for beech huts for hire for people who may be visiting Norwich for the day.
I would like places for us to drop off written suggestions and criticisms of city and suburban life. Requests for services that do not exist that could become micro businesses such as small electrical appliance repair, small tool loan: swop shop: skills shop where people with a trade or skill could instruct others – carpentry, knitting, sewing, horticultural techniques, maths, coding, chess, laptop or tablet use, playing an instrument etc.
 
These people could store mobile ‘barrows’ in the Castle Mall which could be wheeled into the lanes for low cost marketing: or hired one day at a time in order to sell their stock. This would quite possibly help those who make things to sell: an alternative to online which would attract people to the city.
I think we need more excuses for people to sit and meet and share. The Castle Mall could offer an under-one-roof place with food outlets and venues for pop up enterprise. Even story telling, music, (rapping skills), drawing and painting, sign writing, pottery, ballroom dancing, language learning. We have lost so much adult education that the public valued. I think we are inspired by the things we have seen on the television and may like to come into the city to tasters. It would be fun to go in the city during summer for such activities.
 
I think we need to pay young people to pair up with the elderly who need to use the internet and access tablets, laptops and mobiles. I would like a place to drop in to be told how to ‘do’ something. Many people need the equivalent of a teenager with the expertise to get us back online or out of a fix with a device. A public, accessible place would be good for this too. And we need people to support the elderly in care homes to facetime etc.
 
I also feel that people want to talk. We receive so much information but do not have many chances to discuss the changes we weather. It seems to me that we need more forums for people to join in casually. MIND had begun to organise workshops etc where people had an excuse to join in and meet others. The more people we can involve the more we can normalise our individual difficult experiences of life and help us think about existential matters etc. Being alone with thoughts can cripple people who feel isolated. Its quite likely that people would join in classes for nominal fees: visualisation, a bit of CBT, writing therapy, meditation, nutrition for different purposes: sport, pregnancy, allergy, aging etc.
 
As a green, I want people to really get to grips with not cutting grass, not cutting down trees, valuing dandelions, and welcoming bugs. We can do this by really pushing our public spaces to set an example to businesses that spray and hack and pave. Incentives need to be offered for not hardcoring every inch and for opening up bits of hardcore for planting and drainage. Explain how hot tarmac and stone drive ways make pavements a hot desert that reflects heat into the air whereas a few small trees and bushes create shade and take the heat out of the environment and gives shade and insulation against cold and noise. A competition might start this off. Lets not sponsor painted animals as street furniture but the best kept small tree or wild flower area planted sponsored by businesses round the city, villages, suburbs, industrial areas.Etc Etc