A motion calling for the district council to take the lead and establish a task force to help the district become plastic free is to be put forward.
Deputy Mayor of Harrogate, Coun Christine Willoughby, is to ask the council on Wednesday, March 7, to look towards phasing out the use of single-use plastic at its premises.
By also bringing together campaigners and groups from across the district it is hoped that a strategy could be developed to encourage businesses and residents to follow suit.
Coun Willoughby said: “I think what Harrogate Borough Council needs to do is set a good example by eliminating single use plastics from our own premises which would be a good start. From that position we could then encourage others to take similar steps. This could be the police, colleges and hotels in the area.
“There is a changing attitude out there, I have spoken to groups in both Ripon and Knaresborough and there is a real feeling that things cannot go on as they are.”
She added: “We all know we have one planet to live on and we are not doing a good job of taking care of it.”
When asked what could be done Coun Willoughby pointed to small changes in people’s daily routine, encouraging residents to think about what items they purchase in packaging and what will later happen to this.
She said:”I know everyone needs convenience but we need to be careful we are not left surrounded by our own mess. We need to think about the changing attitudes and encouraging others to think.”
Speaking before the meeting this week Leader of Harrogate Borough Council, Coun Richard Cooper, has said he will commit to the council becoming plastic free within 12 months.
Alongside this the council could commit to a campaign to challenge supermarkets and packaging companies to cut their use of plastics.
Coun Cooper added they would lobby government to back this push with teeth through the introduction of new laws.
He said: “I support this motion although I do not think it goes far enough. The Council will be plastic free within twelve months and we will be talking to the organisers of the Ackrill Business Awards with the intention of sponsoring two awards in 2019.
“The first will be for the small and medium sized business which demonstrates a commitment to and progress on reducing its plastic footprint and another for the large business that has done so.”
“The main impact though can be made by supermarkets and those companies that package the goods for them. So the Council will be looking at how it can start a people’s campaign to persuade them to reduce their plastic use - plastic which often ends up in landfill or blowing about the streets.
“We will be lobbying the government to allow us to back that campaign up with teeth. Those teeth should be provided by new laws aimed at compelling packaging companies to use alternatives to plastic where possible and reducing the amount used where it is not.”
Environmental groups across the district have welcomed news of the motion going before the council and are looking to back the push to go plastic free.
Plastic Free Ripon’s, Emma Pilkington said: “We have only been going for seven weeks and there has been a huge amount of interest. We are not militant, we are just engaging with people to think about how they can change. There is a cost element in making that change and we understand that, so we just want people to think about what they can do.
She added: “Anything which could reduce the amount of plastic used here we are behind. Every little thing that we can do will make a huge difference. I hope they push for this initiative and we will support them as much as we can.”
Saving the Planet by Awareness And Recycling in Knaresborough (SPARKS) held their first official meeting in Late January, after originally starting on the Facebook page You Know You’re a Knaresboroughian. Last week saw the group begin to reach out to businesses, introducing themselves and encouraging them to think on how they could reduce their use of plastics.
A founding member, Anne Morley said: “SPARKS has today (Thursday, February 28) sent out letters as part of a trial run to 10 businesses in the town, introducing ourselves and asking what they can do to reduce the amount of plastic they use and waste that is generated.
“Our first push is looking to encourage people to use reusable cups and offering refills, people have already had ideas which will be coming up soon.”
She said: “I think this would be a brilliant idea, we have had it shared with us online and are enthusiastic to help and join up.”
The recently formed Plastic Free Harrogate held their fourth official meeting this week. The group, who aim to support independent businesses to shift away from plastics, have said they would be willing to help the council through researching the best approach.
Aina Landvik, Chair of Plastic Free Harrogate said: "There are other new groups in the area but there didn’t seem to be anything in Harrogate yet. We are planning to specifically targeting independent businesses, as there are lots of campaigns for pressuring bigger chains to change. But independents making that change can make difference locally. Our goal is to make that easier for them.”
She added:”We would love to have a conversation with the council and see if we could do research for them on what alternatives to plastic could be used. We know it can take time to do this, where to get it from, and who are the best suppliers."