CHARLESTOWN, Limekilns and Pattiesmuir has become the first 'Plastic-Free' Scottish mainland communities. 

The West Fife villages have joined a network of communities across the UK who are leading the way on tackling throw-away plastic and have been awarded 'Plastic-Free' status by marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS).

The timing of this award is even more pertinent, as the community has been dealing with oil-based contamination on its shores over the last few weeks due to an unknown cause. A large clean-up operation is ongoing.

Villager Joanna McFarlane, the lead for the community’s plastic-free initiative together with volunteers from the Charlestown, Limekilns and Pattiesmuir (CLP) Nature Conservation Group, started the campaign earlier this year after realising the scale of the plastic pollution on the village beaches.

They pulled together key organisations and businesses in the town to put in place a five-point plan.
The objectives included setting up a community-led steering group, instigating the SAS Plastic-Free Schools education programme, getting Fife Council commitment and working with local businesses, organisations and community groups to spread the word and minimise the number of disposable plastics they use.

Joanna said: "The response from local schools, businesses, volunteers, the community council, community groups, councillors and MSPs to the idea of eliminating the use of single-use plastics from our community has been amazing!

"For many years, community volunteers aged from three upwards have been collecting thousands of microplastic pieces, larger plastics, single-use plastic, sewage-related sources and thousands of nurdles on the village beaches. 

"The area is a protected site for wildlife with whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals as well as many seabirds and waders all regular visitors to the Firth of Forth. 

"It is sad to think all this amazing wildlife is having to deal with this level of plastic pollution in their environment.

"A lot of people in the villages, whether in their own households, in businesses, groups or organisations, have all made a huge effort to move away from single-use plastic and I hope they are really proud of achieving this award as it is down to every single one of them. 

"However, there is still lots to do and more businesses and groups we’d like to work with and we have more beach cleans and events planned ahead to engage our community further." 

Businesses in the villages have made changes such as switching from plastic to paper straws, buying milk in glass bottles and encouraging people to bring their own reusable cups and containers.

Limekilns Primary School even made some changes to move away from single-use plastics before the initiative began!

Dunfermline and West Fife MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville said: "Once again, West Fife is leading the way in protecting our natural environment.

"Cutting out unnecessary plastic use is an incredibly important part of reducing our footprint on the planet. 

"This achievement is a testament to the hard work of the CLP Nature Conservation Group, the local community, and everyone else who has got behind this project."