COULD Tavistock become a plastic-free community? That is the question one resident is asking of the town as he takes the lead in an ambitious new campaign.

Matt Voller has signed himself up as a community leader for Tavistock with the national Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) campaign to tackle avoidable single-use plastics and gain a plastic-free status for Tavistock — and he is encouraging individuals, businesses and the local authority to get on board.

He has already got a number of businesses interested in signing up to reduce their single-use plastic and has had support from Tavistock Town Council.

Matt, a volunteer for Devon Wildlife Trust who has a degree in marine biology and coastal ecology and a masters degree in applied marine science, decided to get involved with the SAS campaign while helping his daughter research ways her school could recycle more.

‘I’ve had lectures from Professor Richard Thompson on plastic pollution in the marine environment but it wasn’t until I started volunteering at the Wembury Marine Centre for the Devon Wildlife Trust that I became aware of the Surfers Against Sewage campaign for plastic-free communities while attending a conference for Plastic Plymouth and Our Planet, organised by Plastic-Free Plymouth,’ said Matt. ‘Twenty five schools took part drawing attention to the damage plastic is doing to the environment. Pupils stood up and told the conference what their school was doing to reduce their plastic consumption. Since then, with Wembury Marine Centre as a plastic-free ambassador for the SAS campaign, I have attended other events drawing attention to the plastic pollution.

‘Talking to my daughter Minnie, she mentioned there was more that her school could do to recycle and she is currently in the process of writing to her teachers. So, while gathering information to assist her, I looked at the Surfers Against Sewage plastic free communities website and thought there is no reason why the community of Tavistock can’t try to gain this status for Tavistock.’

Matt said the campaign was not as daunting as it sounded and the idea was to ‘aim for’ being plastic free, realising that this wouldn’t be possible immediately.

‘When the campaign says “plastic-free”, I’m not trying to rid Tavistock of all plastics as some are very useful,’ he said. ‘I just want to reduce our plastics where possible — the single-use plastics that we can do without, or find alternatives and increase our recycling. I have signed up with Surfers Against Sewage as a community leader in order to move this campaign forward.’

The campaign to become a plastic-free community has several objectives, including support from the local council, local businesses pledging to be involved, inspiring the wider community to spread the plastic free message working with schools, community centres and local groups, instigating mass litter picks and awareness-raising events, setting up a steering group to take the campaign further and finally submitting evidence on how your local area has met the objectives.

Matt has already made progress with several of the objectives. At a meeting of Tavistock Town Council last week, he asked whether the council would consider passing a resolution to support the journey to plastic-free community status for Tavistock.

In response, town mayor Cllr Anne Johnson said on behalf of the council: ‘Initiatives which seek to support ecologically sound and sustainable practices for the benefit of flora, fauna and people are to be welcomed. This is an area where work has already been undertaken by the council around compacting and recycling and we acknowledge there is more to do. In addition, a partner body, Transition Tavistock, is active in this area and we will arrange for the information you have provided to be given to them.

‘Looking forward, this council may also wish to look holistically at a range of environmental matters as part of its community planning process including issues such as climate change, the use of plastics, loss of biodiversity, the sustainable use of natural resources and pollution through the budget and policy committee.’

Matt is asking businesses that want to be involved to pledge to him at least three things they can do now to reduce their single-use plastic waste and three things they can aim for in the future.

Matt has already received a huge amount of support for the plastic-free Tavistock idea on social media and is asking everyone who wants to get involved in any way, or any businesses which want to sign up and make pledges to contact him on [email protected]

Matt added: ’Through this campaign, I feel that not only will it aid our community in creating a more sustainable future, but it will also draw attention to some of the issues that we have with regards to plastic pollution in the local and national environments.’

For more information on plastic free communities and how to make a change, visit