Businesses and campaigners in and around Stroud, including Stroud Brewery, Godsells Cheese, and Stroud District Action on Plastic (SDAP), have joined forces on World Refill Day with a global coalition to write an open letter to the five biggest plastic polluters in the world.
Together, they’re demanding that these companies reinvent their packaging to be reusable and refillable as a matter of urgency to move away from single-use plastic packaging.
Locally in the Stroud District, there are over 90 ‘refill stations’ logged on the award-winning Refill app. These refill stations allow people to eat, drink and shop with less plastic by encouraging customers and visitors to refill everything, from their water bottles and coffee cups through to their weekly shopping basics. Examples of Refill stations include the zero-waste shop “Loose” at the top of the High Street in Stroud, public water fountains and even milk refill machines like the one in Leonard Stanley.
Stroud District Action on Plastic, which coordinates the Refill Stroud campaign has also provided a comprehensive online database that details where people can shop locally with less plastic. Starting Refill Stroud in 2017, the group convinced over 30 local businesses to offer free tap water refills to the public in order to prevent the need to buy single-use plastic water bottles, and also petitioned Stroud Town Council to install a drinking water fountain. Most recently the group won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for outstanding work in the community.
The demand for shopping with less plastic is well known, but exclusive polling for World Refill Day by City to Sea has revealed the extent with over 6 out of 10 (62%) of Brits saying that supermarkets and brands are not doing enough to tackle plastic pollution. Indeed 64% say they are NOT doing enough to provide affordable reusable/refillable or packaging-free options to customers either. Meanwhile, over 8 out of 10 Brits (82.43%) think it should be a priority for government to make reusable and refillable options accessible and affordable for everyone to reduce plastic pollution.
Greg Pilley, the Founder and Managing Director of Stroud Brewery, said: “Plastic pollution is a global problem, but we can and must find local solutions. Our customers are completely on board for this journey and do raise a glass to the steps we’re taking. That’s why as well as joining this global action calling on the biggest polluters to clean up their act, I’m also doing everything I can with my own business to limit the environmental impact we have. For our beers, we sell refillable 2-litre growlers that customers can bring and use time and time again. But ultimately, I think the best way to drink beer is in a bar or pub dispensed from a reusable cask or keg straight into a reusable pint glass.”
Photo Credit: Stroud Brewery
Stroud Brewery has recently switched from plastic bottled mixers in their bar to more sustainable soda vending machines that cut out a lot of the packaging. It has also switched all of its single-use drinks packaging from heavy glass bottles to aluminium cans, a move they say reduces the carbon footprint of its packaging by 15%.
The open letter also highlights that most plastic is made from fossil fuels and that the entire life cycle generates harmful greenhouse gas emissions that are a threat to the climate and to human health. One report estimates that if the entire lifecycle of plastic were a country, it would be the fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. In fact, plastic adds more than 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere in a single year, equivalent to 189 new 500-megawatt coal-fired power plants.
This is why Stroud Brewery, Godsells Cheese and SDAP, have joined forces with global organisations like Greenpeace, The WI and The Muslim Council of Britain to say that for the companies to move their reputations from “big pollution” to “big solution” they need to urgently:
- REVEAL the full extent of their plastic footprint if they do not already do so. This is a core part of accountability and essential if corporations are to reduce their plastic footprint. Reporting should be per single-use plastic item as well as weight.
- REDUCE the amount of plastic they use by setting ambitious, transparent targets and supporting action plans on how to achieve them. Then prioritise achieving those targets.
- REINVENT their packaging to allow for refill and reuse. To do this, they should commit to collaborating with other companies to standardise reusable packaging and build shared reuse systems and infrastructure.
In November 2020, Godsells Cheese in Leonard Stanley introduced a milk refill machine to their dairy farm. The machine has already saved over 28,000 plastic bottles by customers returning to refill their own milk bottles. In June 2021 the machine joined Stroud Brewery and dozens of other local businesses in being logged on the Refill App that directs customers to where they can eat, drink and shop with less plastic.
Liz Godsell from Godsells Cheese: “Our refill milk machine was our attempt to help people connect with their food and to give people a real alternative to supermarkets that still wrap most products in layers of pointless plastic packaging. I proudly signed this open letter for World Refill Day because I can see that this transition away from single-use packaging to reusable and refillable packaging is not just environmentally essential but also economically sensible. Since introducing our refill milk machine we’ve managed to sell our over 28,000 litres of milk directly to customers at an affordable but fair price. This cuts out transportation costs and emissions and makes the whole product much more sustainable.”
Local vicar, Steve Harrison, blessing the milk refill machine when it was opened in 2020. Photo Credit: Godsells Cheese
Claudi Williams who coordinates Stroud District Action on Plastic and who runs Refill Stroud added: “Many people in the Stroud district are utterly fed up with the amount of single-use plastic packaging in supermarkets. Over the last few years, local producers and shops have done an enormous amount to offer refill, reuse and repair opportunities. And while there is still more we can all do, we are fighting an uphill battle against these global companies that don’t seem to care about the plastic waste piling up all over the world and the plastic litter in our rivers, on roads and our commons. That’s why we have proudly added our name to this global call to say that those who contribute to plastic pollution the most should be doing the most to fix this problem. The solutions MUST include producing packaging that can be refilled or reused.”
SDAP and Greenpeace Stroud litter pick. Photo credit: Claudi Williams
Local Green Party Cllr for The Stanleys and City to Sea’s Policy Manager, Steve Hynd, added: “It’s wonderful to see local organisations like Stroud Brewery, Godsells Cheese and Stroud District Action on Plastic joining forces with global partners to demand change. I’m really proud of how many businesses around the district are taking steps to tackle their plastic footprint. I particularly wanted to raise a glass to Stroud Brewery, my former employer, Godsells Cheese, a wonderful local business in the villages that I represent, and Stroud District Action on Plastic which does so much work to empower local residents. Together on World Refill Day they’ve all thrown themselves into this powerful global coalition to demand that big brands produce less plastic while also doing everything they can in their own businesses to reduce their plastic footprint.”
Cllr Steve Hynd with Liz Godsell at the milk Refill machine in Leonard Stanley. Photo Credit: Cllr Steve Hynd