The city council set up the Plastic-Free Preston Task Group after it was approached by pupils at Lea St. Mary’s Catholic Primary School, who were worried about waste plastic being washed into the world’s oceans.
Speaking after the first formal meeting of the cross-party group, its chair, Cllr John Swindells, said the children who had raised the issue were crucial to helping Preston play its part in solving the problem.
“They were explaining how they’ve pestered their parents to change supermarkets, because, for instance, some shops now only give fruit in paper bags, whereas that’s not the choice in others,” Cllr Swindells said.
“They’re using their pester power to persuade their parents to improve the environment they’re going to have to inherit.”
But during the discussion at the town hall, the difficulty of making a difference was as clear as the plastic bottles which councillors hope to see eliminated from the streets of the city.
Cllr Jono Grisdale told members that during last weekend’s RockPrest festival, he had his reusable water bottle taken off him and was advised to buy water when he went inside the event - which he could then refill.
Duncan Coward, Preston City Council’s Head of Waste Management, suggested clauses could be put in contracts with organisations hosting events on behalf of the city or who are using council land.
Cllr Swindells also indicated that balloons could be banned on council property.
“It’s all litter,” Cllr Grisdale agreed. “Just because it floats up and looks pretty, it’s still litter.”
Yet even within the authority’s own headquarters there are plenty of obstacles along the path to becoming plastic free - including a lack of facilities to wash cups and glasses.
Staff are no longer provided with plastic cups, but meeting rooms used by councillors and third parties do still offer them.
“If you take that option away from people, they will start to change their habits,” Duncan Coward said. “The message is not to use plastic in the first place, but if you have to use it, then recycle.”
“We can start to change what we do and publicise that - and hopefully other places will follow our example,” Cllr Swindells added.
The task group is hoping to hear from the Plastic-Free Communities campaign before it produces its final report in October.