Plastic Free Pledge in Cheltenham

Thomas Carlyle, the philosopher, has been in the news this week. His portrait, which was slashed in 1914 by suffragette Anne Hunt, is back on display. It’s there to mark the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave some women the vote.

What a shame, then, that some of my MP colleagues have forgotten Carlyle’s famous maxim – ‘silence is golden’. Instead of criticising Theresa May in the press, they should recognise that she has an immensely difficult job to do. Sniping at her just undermines her and undermines the country. It should stop.

Instead I intend to focus on Cheltenham and how we can make our town even better – and specifically on how we can take the lead locally in cracking down on plastic pollution. Readers of this column will know that this is an issue I have long felt strongly about (and before Blue Planet II hit our TV screens too!)

That’s why I’m launching my ‘Final Straw’ campaign, to eradicate single-use plastic straws from our town. It’s estimated that the UK and US alone throw away around 550 million plastic straws every day. In Cheltenham alone it’s likely we throw away several thousand each week. Although each one is used for a matter of seconds, they take centuries to break down. According to Litterati, an app that identifies and maps ocean rubbish, straws are the sixth most common type of marine debris.

Other towns and cities are seizing the initiative. Residents in Washington state ran a ‘Strawless in Seattle’ campaign, which helped that city save 2.3 million straws in about three months.

Let’s play our part here in Cheltenham too. And let’s go one better. I’m calling on the local authorities to sign a “Plastic Free Pledge” to stop providing plastic cups, bottles, cutlery and straws at all their buildings, cafes and public events.

We have a precious planet. We owe it to future generations to tread more lightly on it.