Modbury celebrates 10 years of being free of plastic bags

By Chris Derrick in Environment

Modbury is celebrating 10 years of being Europe’s first plastic bag free town this month.

On Wednesday, May 17, Nicki Shepley of the Modbury Society presented a certificate and flowers to Co-op manager Nicky Lowry, in recognition of the shop’s vital support for the campaign.

Modbury’s town crier, David Scott was also in the shop for the presentation, along with several Modbury residents, who turned up to celebrate the occasion.

Nicki Shepley explained: “Other small retailers make their own decisions, but for the Co-op, a national chain, to support the campaign was decisive in making Modbury plastic-bag free. We couldn’t have done it without them.

“The Co-op has been supportive since the very beginning and as a result, for 10 years the Co-op has only used bio-degradable bags made from corn starch, which for many years were given free to customers, but are now 5p each.

“And since having to charge for carrier bags, the money raised has been given to local causes. In Modbury’s case, £3,062 has been raised.

“Modbury preschool has benefited by £1,037; Modbury Caring by £1,047; and the Modbury Memorial Hall £978.”

Modbury hit headlines across the world in 2007, when when all of the shops in the town ceased handing out plastic bags to customers.

The genesis of the idea came from local wildlife camerawoman, Rebecca Hosking, who had visited the Pacific to film marine life for the BBC.

She had been filming an episode of Natural World ‘Hawaii - Message in the Waves’. Rebecca was left deeply shocked by the scale of plastic bag pollution she saw in the world’s largest ocean. She returned to the South Hams with a powerful message.

Rebecca told the Guardian at the time: “It really affected me, I have never cried behind a camera before. I’m not a blubby person but it broke my heart to see animals entangled in plastic, albatrosses dying in plastic, dolphins trailing plastic and seals with their noses trapped in parcel tape roll.

“The sea is now like a trash can and the plastic is there forever. It doesn’t go away for hundreds of years. What I witnessed was just so unnecessary. All this damage is simply caused by our throwaway living.”

On her return to Modbury, she held a public screening of the film at the Brownston Gallery in the town, showing the impact of plastic waste on the marine environment. At the end of the film, all the traders agreed to stop handing out plastic bags in the town. Miss Hosking was made an MBE for her initiative in the 2009 New Years Honours.

And ten years after the ban was introduced, locals and visitors to Modbury have grown accustomed to bringing a reusable bag with them when shopping.

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