This World Ocean’s Day we reflect on how WIs and federations engaged with the End Plastic Soup campaign in its first year.
Our campaign calls on Government and industry to develop solutions to reduce the amount of microplastic fibres entering our oceans. Microplastic fibres are shed from synthetic clothing when washed and pose a health risk to marine life. The campaign has also been a chance for WIs to consider the amount of single-use plastic they use every day and look at reducing the environmental impacts ‘fast fashion’ has on the environment.
Isle of Wight Federation is theming their Annual Council Meeting around the campaign.
“As an island federation we really see and feel the impact of plastic pollution. It was an obvious choice for us to not only embrace the campaign, but to widen the scope of impact and look at the many ways in which plastic pollution affects us, and how we can make a difference.”
Their Annual Council Meeting will feature speakers from their local MP, Bob Seely, speaker for the resolution at the 2017 NFWI Annual Meeting, Dr Natalie Welden and a Southern Water representative.
The federation is also making a difference in reducing the amount of plastic waste in their own office:
“Our federation office has a "no single-use plastic" requirement in place, and we have even told our local Agricultural Show, where we provide refreshments, that we expect to see recycling stations this year! All of us can do something, however small, to protect our environment for years, and generations, to come.”
Cornwall Federation is also acutely aware of the threat plastics poses to the oceans, as the Federation’s Climate Ambassador, Pippa Stilwell highlights:
“A sift through the sand of every pristine beach reveals tiny chips of plastic. A wander along a forgotten cove shows larger objects – polyethylene rope and endless plastic bottles.”
Two Cornwall WIs, Liskeard and Downderry and Seaton, caught people’s attention by entering their carnival parades festooned in plastic collected from local beaches.
The event featured a Make Do and Mend corner and clothes swap rail. They screened Sky’s documentary 'A Plastic Tide’, there was a produce table offering free soaps and raffle prizes included bamboo toothbrushes and Fairtrade chocolate and wine.
Sotonettes WI invited Dr KatsiaPabortsava, a biogeochemist at the National Oceanography Centre, to speak at their meeting. They even had their washing machine samples analysed and presented back to them by Katsia!
Selby Swans WI has a team of members spearheading their End Plastic Soup campaign. The campaign got off to a great start with a launch article in their local newspaper, which will feature their campaign actions every month.
The team are also appealing to businesses to ban plastic straws and asking their members to pledge changes they will make in their own lives using a selfie board. One particularly crafty member is raising awareness of the issue by creating a piece of clothing using recycled plastic and producing cotton washing bags for other members.
Lymington WI took over the foyer of their local supermarket where they handed out the WI’s End Plastic Soup checklist to passers-by. Their MP, Sir Desmond Swayne, came along to lend his support, as well as their local newspaper.
“Our WI is based in an estuary town so making sure our oceans and beaches are clean is very important to us. Lots of people were astounded that microplastics can be released from washing your synthetic clothing.”
This was followed by a beach clean where over twenty sacks of rubbish was collected.
How is the National Federation of Women’s Institute (NFWI) working on the campaign?
The NFWI has met with a range of industries to gain a better understanding of how they are working on the issue of microplastic fibres. We plan to bring together relevant stakeholders to discuss upcoming work and next steps.
The NFWI has also developed an End Plastic Soup survey, which closes on 20 June, and looks at the makeup of our wardrobes and washing habits. The findings of the survey will form part of an NFWI report launching later this year.
Do you want to take action now? The NFWI is holding a drop-in session at Parliament on 4 July for MPs to come along and learn more about our campaign and what we are calling for.
Invite your local MP along using our template letter. Download it here: thewi.org.uk/endplasticsoup
A more detailed update on how the NFWI has been working on the campaign will be in the August Mailing, so keep an eye out for it!