BURNHAM-on-Sea and Highbridge have joined a network of communities across the country who are leading the way on tackling single use plastic.

The towns were given Plastic Free Community status by marine conservation charity, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) last week, to recognise the work businesses, residents and groups have done to reduce the impact of single use plastic on the environment.

Tatiana Cant, town clerk for Burnham and Highbridge Town Council, began working on a campaign last year after realising that communities across the country were rallying residents together to take action against the sea of plastic.

Weston-super-Mare joined the scheme along with Wells, which has recently achieved the SAS objectives, and as a result Burnham and Highbridge residents have been keen to get involved.

After registering with the SAS Plastic Free Communities movement, Tatiana pulled together key organisations and businesses in the town to put in place a five-point plan.

The objectives include: setting up a community led steering group, instigating the SAS Plastic Free Schools education programme, getting local council commitment and working with local businesses, organisations and community groups to spread the word and minimise the amount of disposable plastics they use.

Speaking about the project, Ms Cant, said:

A number of businesses in the two towns have embraced the challenge of eliminating single use plastics and replacing them with more environmentally friendly materials including Sopha, The Round Tower Guest House and Gardiner Whites.

The Princess Theatre and Arts Centre is taking a lead on initiatives to reduce the town’s carbon footprint and in the last few months has signed up to the national Refill scheme, ditched its sugar sachets and plastic straws and has joined the Walkers scheme to become a collection point for all makes of crisp packets.

Dozens of residents also turn out regularly to clean the local beaches and schools including The King Alfred School, Churchfield School and St Andrews School have been incorporating plastic free work into their art and getting involved in beach cleans.

Tatiana added: "Local residents in our community have been very keen to find out how they can help to reduce the use of single use plastic and I was very impressed at the concern of dozens of members who expressed their concern at a recent WI meeting.

"Litter Free Coast & Sea Somerset has been a key stakeholder in the partnership which has helped Burnham & Highbridge to become a Plastic Free Community.

"The town council has worked closely with the group who have provided excellent help and advice to the town council as well as running the Business Award Scheme to encourage local businesses to improve their practices.

"They have also organised numerous beach cleans to remove litter from our coastline and raise awareness. We couldn’t have done this without the support of our colleagues Tanya and Chloé at Litter Free."

Rachel Yates, SAS Plastic Free Communities Project Officer, said: “It’s great to see the work that Burnham-on-Sea & Highbridge has done to reduce the availability of avoidable plastics, raise awareness and encourage people to refill and reuse.

“We have over four hundred communities across the UK working to reduce single use plastic and the impact it has on our environment. Every step those communities and the individuals in them take is a step towards tackling the problem at source, challenging our throwaway culture and encouraging the habit changes we need to see.”