• Anglesey has received the first UK award for cutting plastic use
  • The council met five objectives to achieve plastic-free status
  • Businesses have ditched single-use bottles and coffee cups

Anglesey, an island off Wales’ northwest coast, has become the UK’s first "plastic-free" county.

Plastic Free Community status was awarded by Surfers Against Sewage after the island met the five objectives set by the marine conservation group.

The movement forms part of the organization’s wider effort to combat plastics in the ocean, which also includes asking individuals to reduce their plastic consumption and lobbying government for new legislation.

“It’s not about removing all plastic from our lives,” Surfers Against Sewage says. “It’s about kicking our addiction to avoidable single-use plastic, and changing the system that produces it.”

Status symbol

To achieve Plastic Free Community status, a local council must adopt a resolution supporting the area’s plastic-free journey.

It must demonstrate it is working with businesses in the community to reduce single-use plastics, work with schools and other local organizations to promote the plastic-free message and hold clean-ups to raise awareness. Finally a steering group of local stakeholders must meet at least twice a year to take the campaign forward.

Once evidence to back up these objectives has been gathered, the council, town or community can apply for its official Plastic Free Community accreditation.

Plastic problem

Growing volumes.
Image: Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Single-use plastics have come into focus as large volumes have been found in rivers and the sea.

While it’s a cheap, durable material that has many practical uses, its short-use cycle means much is thrown away, ending up in the environment and often damaging ecosystems.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates the costs arising from single-use plastics, together with those of the greenhouse gases emitted during production, to be $40 billion a year.


What is the World Economic Forum doing about plastic pollution?

More than 90% of plastic is never recycled, and a whopping 8 million metric tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans annually. At this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.

The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) is a collaboration between businesses, international donors, national and local governments, community groups and world-class experts seeking meaningful actions to beat plastic pollution.

In Ghana, for example, GPAP is working with technology giant SAP to create a group of more than 2,000 waste pickers and measuring the quantities and types of plastic that they collect. This data is then analysed alongside the prices that are paid throughout the value chain by buyers in Ghana and internationally.

It aims to show how businesses, communities and governments can redesign the global “take-make-dispose” economy as a circular one in which products and materials are redesigned, recovered and reused to reduce environmental impacts.

Read more in our impact story.

It calls for a ‘New Plastics Economy’ - aligning the plastic industry to the circular economy, reducing plastic waste, reusing objects and recycling them where possible. Ultimately, it’s single-use plastic items that are the main culprits.

Across the UK, other communities are going plastic free, with Penzance in Cornwall cutting back plastic use in its schools and organizing regular beach cleans.

The actions of Anglesey and other small communities underscore how little steps can add up to big actions. These initiatives contribute to broader global goals.

Anglesey Councillor Dafydd Rhys Thomas sums up why the community has made such progress:

“I saw a seal which was struggling with a plastic bag in its mouth - I needed to do something myself for this beautiful island and for our coast.”