The smart thing about the Be Plastic Clever initiative is that, like all good ideas, it’s really simple: local people (individuals, families, kids) working with local establishments (businesses, cafes, festivals and schools) to reduce their use of unnecessary single-use plastic items.
Simply provide an easy-to-implement framework and some ready-made free-to-download online resources that can work at any scale (criteria, certificates and window stickers), and engage and enthuse a local community through collaboration, the sharing of local success stories and ‘plastic cleverness’ to work together to address a local/global environmental issue - single-use plastic pollution - and community-based activism and behaviour change is the result.
The strength of this wholly positive community-building campaign and ‘no-one loses idea’ is that it has the potential to empower and engage everyone: setup by a family wanting to do their bit in response to the UN Global Goals, the Be Plastic Clever initiative has been adopted by children and families around the UK, and further afield, who want to help make their local area be Plastic Clever - be it their school, local pub or a chain of cafes, or an annual festival.
Throw in a few celebrities who also want to support the initiative: Steve Backshall, Helen Glover, Ben Fogle, Sarah Outen, and organisations like Greenpeace, Steppes Travel, Exxpedition and Keep Britain Tidy, and the notion of Be Plastic Clever gets taken seriously.
In collaboration with Refill Bristol – last year’s Geovation winners – there is also the potential of a technological dimension in the form of a ready-built smart phone app developed by Refill. The ability to map ‘plastic cleverness’ across the UK means that people using the Refill app can now not only seek locations that offer free tap water refills, they will also be able to find venues that offer free water refills alongside cheaper coffee for customers using refillable coffee cups, and the peace of mind that they will be supporting a business that cares about the environment and one that is taking their responsibly towards single-use plastic seriously.
When it comes to the global issue of single-use plastic pollution; it’s OK picking up litter off streets and waterways, and doing beach cleans (we do plenty of all of these), but what really needs to happen to address the devastating impact that single-use or disposable plastic is having on the environment, is to turn off the flow of single-use plastic at source. We need to stop using it, and now. The problem, and it is a big problem, is that this is going to require behaviour change… for everyone. And that is not going to be easy.
Be Plastic Clever doesn’t have a big legislative stick with which to beat about change, nor does it have the funds to create a professional campaign or high-tech app. But what it does behind it is an idea that is delightfully simple, yet potentially very powerful: the idea that everyone can do their bit, and in doing so save money, resources and the planet… all at the same time.
Quite simply, Be plastic Clever is a positive, family-run, social action campaign that encourages cafes, businesses, families, adventurers, festivals… anyone actually, to actively reduce and ideally stop their use of the BIG 4 plastic polluters: cups and lids, straws, bags and bottles, and to start using more environmentally friendly reusable alternatives.
It achieves this goal in several ways, by:
• Encouraging cafes, businesses, employers, employees, families, adventurers, schools and festivals to agree to specific Plastic Clever criteria
• Awarding certificates and window stickers to those that have met the criteria
• Celebrating the Plastic Cleverness of those awarded a Plastic Clever status on Be Plastic Clever website and across social media
• Demonstrating savings for café customers through discounted refills for those using refillable coffee cups and free water refills when refillable water bottles are used
• Demonstrating savings for café owners who have to buy fewer single-use consumables and manage less commercial waste
• Securing and sharing online discounts for reusable and sustainable products for all concerned
NB. Being Plastic Clever is an easy ‘sell’ as it actually saves money for the organisation and the individual, as well as having benefits for the environment: a win/win/win
In collaboration with a previous Geovation winner, Refill Bristol, Be Plastic Clever Cafes will grow across the Refill network, while at the same time help to expand the Refill network itself. The Refill app will have a Plastic Clever Cafe layer added to show Refill stations that offer more than just free tap water refills, but also meet the wider Plastic Clever criteria enabling users to find sustainable and environmentally ‘Plastic Clever’ venues that will offer free water as well as discounted coffee refills and reduced usage of the BIG 4 single-use plastic polluters.
The BIG 4 are some of the most prevalent plastic polluters found on our streets, in our waterways, rivers and oceans – not to mention landfill sites. These items never break down and persist for hundreds of years in the environment, and they are on the whole totally unnecessary.