The shocking spectacle of oceans polluted with plastic and animals tangled in rubbish in the BBC’s popular Blue Planet 2 has prompted Swindon residents to rethink their addiction to throw-away plastics.

They are joining people up and down the country looking for ways to cut down on plastic use – ditching straws, and switching single-use water bottles reusable alternatives, for example

But how hard would it be to eliminate waste altogether? Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is challenging us to go further and sign up for Waste Free February.

They want people to recycle, re-use or compost as much as they can, meaning little to no waste ends up in household rubbish bins, and subsequently in landfill sites or the ocean.

“Waste Free February is challenging, but a challenge very worthwhile committing to,” said the trust’s education and well bring officer Gemma Annan. “I found myself shopping at several different stores and markets to achieve my goal – this really proved what a wasteful society we live in. However, being a conscientious shopper has opened my eyes and helped me adopt some everyday waste-reducing changes which I have continued through the year.”

Gemma set up a pilot Waste Free February last year and managed to reduce her rubbish, over the month, to fill just one small jam-jar.

She did not understate how difficult the challenge was – and said she was keen for people to take smaller steps, if the one-jar challenge was too daunting.

“You could take part for a day, or a weekend. Set your own goals,” she said. “If you know it would be unrealistic you can choose a bag or a box as a limit for your rubbish.”

It took considerable planning for Gemma to reduce her waste so drastically. She had to ditch her weekly visit to the supermarket and use five different outlets.

She bought fruit and vegetables from the market, took her own cotton bags for the produce, purchased fewer items and did more cooking from scratch.

Gemma took the opportunity to talk to staff in shops to explain what she was doing, when she took a container to a deli, for example. She also recycled and composted as much as she could. She said reaction from retail staff varied, and while some were irritated others were supportive. “People don’t always realise how much you can recycle,” she said. “Any stretchy plastic can go in the plastic bag recycling – like the Amazon delivery bags.”

Talis Kimberley-Fairbourn, Swindon Area Green Party and former parliamentary candidate, said we should all be doing more, but Government needed to be stepping in too.

“Six months or so ago, China made it clear they do not want our plastic for recycling – they have their own waste to process,” she said. “Individuals may collect plastics for recycling, but we are short of recycling depots for processing it, and we need to close the loop by using more recycled plastic.

“David Attenborough’s Blue Planet started something. People watched and were horrified and affected. We want retailers and producers and manufacturers to see there is a widespread energy, and this is a moment to do something about it.”

Plastic has only been widely used for around 70 years, but now it is everywhere – in packaging, clothes, and all sorts of consumer products. But nearly all the plastic we have ever created still exists in some form, because it is so durable, and a lot of plastic ends up in the sea.

Tallis said it was not enough to put extra tax on goods – and that action should be taken at every level: individually, by local authorities and by Government.

“We need to take more responsibility for the plastic we acquire and throw away. We need to think, what did people do before we had plastic?”

She said people should to be more vocal when shopping and let retailers know they wanted plastic use reduced.

“We need to be willing to stand up and make a noise about this,” she explained. “I am still learning. I do what I can, but there are more ways to do better.

“Have a look at what you do. Change one thing. Do it step by step and share ideas. Let’s encourage each other.”

Frozen food store Iceland, which has Swindon outlets in Havelock Square and Cricklade Road, has vowed to become the first major retailer globally to get rid of all plastic packaging on its own brand products by 2023. The pledge will be a first step towards cutting down on the one million tonnes of plastic generated by UK supermarkets each year.

Instead it will create a range of packaging such as paper and pulp trays, along with paper bags, which are recyclable at home or in store, and so less harmful to the environment. They have already removed plastic disposable straws from their own label range.

Managing director Richard Walker, is driving this initiative to show the potential for the entire supermarket sector to go plastic-free. He said: “The world has woken up to the scourge of plastics. A truckload is entering our oceans every minute, causing untold damage to our marine environment and ultimately humanity – since we all depend on the oceans for our survival.

“The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change.”

Gemma is asking people to let the wildlife trust know if they were taking part in the challenge. “I encourage everyone to take part this February, if only for a day or a week. By sharing your journey, you can play a role in changing the amount of waste we, as a society, are producing.”

Swindon Borough Council recycles most clear and white plastics, such as drinks bottles, yoghurt pots and fruit and vegetable trays, as part of its kerbside recycling programme. Details can be found at

If you would like to join Waste Free February, or are looking for ways to reduce your waste, visit, where you can find a detailed user guide with lots of ideas and information.

Share ideas at, Twitter @SlimBinsWilts using #WasteFreeFeb, and join the Facebook group Waste Free Feb.