A plague of plastic is blighting our oceans, killing sea life and breaking down into particles that we are consuming in our food.

Scientists believe micro plastics - tiny particles of plastic - are in the air we breathe and on the soil where our food is grown - yet plastics have only been in widespread use since the 1950s.

Since watching the BBC's Blue Planet television series, many of us have been alerted to the dangers and shocked by the spectacle of our polluted oceans and various initiatives have been started to try and wean us from our plastic addition.

Now environmental activists in Swindon are stepping in and launching a town-wide Plastic Free July, encouraging everyone to think about their use of disposable plastic and to find ways to cut down on their waste.

The Swindon Climate Action Network (SCAN) is an umbrella group that meets monthly and supports a wide range of green campaigns.

The group meets monthly at, alternately, the Glue Pot and the Beehive, and numbers have surged in response to the current awakening to the dangers posed by indiscriminate use and disposal of plastics.

Artist Michelle Todd, musician and activist Ben Bell, and Edward Glennie, who is retired, explained how SCAN works and what they hope to achieve during Swindon’s first Plastic Free July.

“The group was set up about 19 years ago by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. They were interested in getting people campaigning about climate change. However, it is now broader just being a climate action group, though so many issues do connect to that,” Ben said.

“We have seen a big increase in people coming to our meetings and may have to change venues. At the last one, we had three different conversations going on at the same time all about plastic, giving us lots of ideas towards the campaign.

“At the moment there is a lot of growth in the plastics campaign group and a lot of people want to get involved after seeing Blue Plant. It’s really woken people up.

"Even in environmental circles, many did not realise it was that bad.”

Ben said he got involved in environmental campaigning when he developed an interest in organic food and realised the benefit of it.

“If we treat animals, or the environment, or ourselves badly, it will have repercussions on the whole. We need a holistic approach,” he said.

Michelle, a life-long vegetarian and aspiring vegan, said she wanted to promote animal welfare and was shocked when she saw the devastating effects of plastics in the oceans.

Edward’s interest in protecting the environment was inspired by an 18-month stay in Pakistan in 1979, when he was working at the Forestry Institute and witnessed hillsides devoid of trees where people had taken the wood for cooking and heating, resulting in flash floods.

“I saw the connection between the environment and the way we live, and how we absolutely depend on our environment to have a decent life. We have to get our heads around that,” he said.

Swindon’s Plastic Free July kicks off on Sunday July 1 with a litter pick at Pinehurst, from 11am to 1.30pm, starting from the Pinetrees Community Centre. The event was organised with RSPCA North Wilts, as plastic and other waste products pose a threat to animals.

Speaking for Swindon’s local branch Katie North said: “We are thrilled to get behind SCAN to raise awareness on this really important issue. I don’t think many people realise just how big the problem of littering is in terms of the threat it causes to wildlife and other animals.”

The next event is a film screening at the Central Community Centre in Emlyn Square. Doors open at 6pm with the screening at 7pm, and the feature is called Addicted to Plastic.

“It’s not a new film but it goes into depth on the environmental problems caused by plastic and it is very relevant,” Ben said.

A discussion will follow the screening.

A second litter pick, organised with the Swindon Street Reps, will be held in Penhill on July 4, 10am to 3pm. The street reps are making all their litter pick events public to encourage new volunteers and raise awareness of the issue caused by litter.

The meeting point is at the green external to NISA, Alton Close, entrance to Penhill Drive.

Michelle has taken Plastic Free July to Swindon’s primary schools and has contacted them to extend an invitation to take part in some way.

“Perhaps they could organise a litter pick on the school grounds or encourage kids to try and reduce plastic in lunch boxes. They could create pieces of art or sculptures, with certificates awarded for efforts in the campaign,” she said.

They will be running articles on the SCAN website over the course of the month and hope to set up a Green Business Forum in the town at the end of the summer.

“There are so many aspects to this and everyone needs to pay a part,” Ben said.

“Individuals, businesses, councils – there are many different things that need doing around plastic use.”

On an individual level, SCAN is encouraging everyone to take some simple steps to reduce their use of plastic – particularly single-use plastics.

Scientists estimate that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the world's oceans - and amazingly, about half of all plastic produced is for single-use or disposable items such as packaging.

Cutting down on this avoidable use of plastic could make a big impact on the world's plastic problem. 

Some individual resolutions for July might include avoiding cotton buds made of plastic, remembering reusable bags when shopping, making your own snacks rather than buying them wrapped in plastic, taking a re-usable cup for your coffee and using a refillable water bottle.

Cooking from scratch, rather than using convenience foods, and aiming to buy clothes made of natural fibres are other ways of reducing plastic waste.

To sign up for Plastic Free July, along with tips on how to reduce your plastic waste, visit plasticfreejuly.org. You will be joining forces with an estimated two million people from 150 countries, all keen to make a difference.