The Plastic Free Barnstaple movement has officially launched with a message of support from Michael Gove.

The launch of Plastic Free Barnstaple.The launch of Plastic Free Barnstaple.

The Environment Secretary pledged his support to the group in a video message, as well as North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones.

The group, a branch of the Plastic Free North Devon group, had its official launch night at Boston Tea Party.

In his message Mr Gove said: “I think an initiative like this, which is bottom-up, where local people take power into their own hands is absolutely the right way to go.”

Around 60 people came to the launch event at Boston Tea Party in Barnstaple on November 21, including representatives from businesses, councils and churches as well as lots of individuals interested in the campaign.

Attendees listened to five speakers discuss aspects of the problem and the campaigns against single use plastic.

Martin Kennaugh, chairman of the Plastic Free Barnstaple campaign, said: “Eight-million pieces of plastic pollution go into our oceans every day and 5,000 pieces of plastic have been found for every mile of beach in the UK.

“Although the problem can sometimes seem insurmountable, there are enthusiastic capable people working the problem both in the UK and worldwide.

“Setting up Plastic Free Barnstaple means we can play our own part in the local war against single-use plastic.”

Martin went on to outline the campaign to achieve Plastic Free status for Barnstaple, reporting that they were close to meeting the Surfers Against Sewage criteria, having gained town council support, signed up a number of businesses and allies, staged three events so far this year and set-up a steering group for the Barnstaple campaign.

Phoebe Gibb, owner of the Stationmaster’s Café spoke to explain why she’d decided to rid the café of its single-use plastics.

She outlined that, over a year, they went through over 40,000 takeaway hot drink cups and lids and nearly 18,000 single-use plastic cold drinks.

She said, “It can be perceived as a daunting change to become a plastic free business, but it doesn’t have to be.

“It’s all about making a start with one item and then changing others when you run out, looking at viable alternatives and finding what is right for your business.”

For more information see the Plastic Free Barnstaple Facebook page.