450 years. Less than 450 years ago the English Civil War began and ended, with the execution of King Charles I, abolishment of the monarchy and the establishment of the supremacy of Parliament over the king. It takes 450 years for a ‘disposable’ PPE mask to decompose. 

Theoretically, a mask could have seen the Elizabethan era, protestant reformation, slavery, rise and fall of the British Empire, the industrial revolution to the present day.  Research for North London Waste Authority (NLWA) found that here in the UK alone, we throw away 102 million single-use surgical masks each week.

Disposable masks and plastic bags are a stain on the global environment, with more and more ending up in our parks, streets and oceans. 1,500 tonnes of plastic reaches landfill every month. These horrifying statistics have inspired local communities to do their part for a more sustainable future. Thames Ditton in Surrey is an example of where actions mean more than just words.

Earlier this week I spoke with Thames Ditton Foundation founder and trustee Tricia Bland, who is committed to the fight against plastic pollution and creating a greener Thames Ditton. Tricia is the organiser of Thames Ditton Boomerang Bags, and much more.

Boomerang Bags originated in Australia in 2013 where creators Tina and Jorden became aware of the one million plastic bags used every minute and the 10.46 million tonnes of fabric waste created each year. It’s now a global movement involving 1,145 communities that understand the need for environmental change.

Thames Ditton is one such community, the first High Street in the UK to introduce the Boomerang Bags to its independent shops to give out free to customers. This reusable bag is created from post-consumer material (waste) to replace plastic bags. The purpose of a Boomerang Bag is to borrow and reuse with an estimated life span of 700 uses, used not just to carry groceries but to start conversations and build communities.

The Thames Ditton Boomerang Bag Club at the village Community Centre supported by home-based sewing bees makes the bags. Many people over the last 5 years have joined the BB Community especially during lockdown where reusable masks became a huge initiative with the organisation making roughly 3,500 for teachers at local schools, community centres, NHS workers for off-duty wear, plus residents in care homes. For many in Thames Ditton becoming a Sewing Bee has given them a different purpose and even a new skill. They are creating real change-making new friendships and brightening up the high street.

Tricia also organises the Thames Ditton, Farmers Market. Every fourth Saturday of the month you can find locally sourced produce and amazing handmade gifts for sale at the market. A lovely time for friends and families to gather to support independent businesses and enjoy live music performances. All this is about creating the ‘20 Min Neighbourhoods’ – an idea that has ascended rapidly in the world of urban development. The basic premise is to be able to access daily services within a 20-minute walk.

Tricia is a firm believer that a lively community will create a greener Thames Ditton. There are many happy faces to be seen participating in the Thames Ditton Bloom initiative. Local volunteers have created a welcoming and attractive spaces in the most unlikely of places, such as Thames Ditton railway station.  Wheelbarrows and wooden planters (made by the Men in Sheds), overflow with a riot of colour, bug hotels all full of beautiful flowers and plants to encourage pollinators. Train line link towns bring cities together to generate habitats that function as a dispersal corridor, facilitating the movement of pollinators through landscapes. The work of Thames Ditton locals is crucial in keeping their village pollinator-friendly and plastic-free for the benefit of the residents’ wellbeing and the wellbeing of the future generation.

Understandably, some of us may believe that taking individual action cannot achieve much. Tricia has successfully challenged this belief with initiatives such as Thames Ditton in Bloom, Boomerang Bags, Farmers Market and Litter Pickers. Everyone is welcome to come, join in or simply have a chat and contribute to a more sustainable, way to have fun and protect the future of our planet.

If you would like to get involved or learn more about the Thames Ditton Foundation, Boomerang Bags or any of the other initiatives do please contact Tricia via www.thamesdittonhighstreet.com

Twitter @PlasticFreeTD @TDHighStreet

Instagram @thamesdittonboomerangbags