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Interview with Ric Baldock – Founder, Plastic Free East Dulwich

This year the Dulwich Festival is proud to be teaming up with Plastic Free East Dulwich in line with its theme of Sustainability.

East Dulwich is the first place in London to have become officially ‘plastic free’ after campaigners, traders and schools came together to reject single-use plastic, largely steered by founder, Ric Baldock. We caught up with the ever – busy Ric in-between his day job as a film producer and on going mission for a plastic free community.

We’re very excited to be joining forces with Plastic Free East Dulwich at this year’s Festival in keeping with the theme of ‘Sustainability’.  How important is it for Plastic Free East Dulwich to be involved in such community events?

Hugely important! We are a community group and we set up specifically to address the problem of single-use plastic within the East Dulwich area so the Dulwich Festival is the perfect partner. It’s brilliant that the festival is putting sustainability at the heart of its message this year.

How and why did you set up Plastic Free East Dulwich?

I’d been a member of marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage for a long time and two years ago they put a call out for volunteers to run their Plastic Free Community programme in local areas. I’d always thought the connection to the ocean needed to be made more explicit for us urban dwellers and this seemed like a good chance to make that connection. I love where I live and think it’s important to get involved and take care of the local community so I decided to put my hand up for the task.

Can you tell us a little about Plastic Free East Dulwich and what initiatives the group action in the local area?

Over the past 18 months we have connected with over 3000 people in the local area. Southwark Council has passed a motion to support all our initiatives, as well as committing to all their premises going single-use plastic free. We have 13 businesses who have become Plastic-Free Champions, removing or replacing single-use plastic items. We’ve engaged over 30 community groups, spoken in 13 schools and run 10 events, including talks, screenings and community cleans. It’s hard to gauge the impact on awareness but if we can make people stop to think about the problems and talk about them with their friends and family then that’s a step forward.

Plastic Free East Dulwich is the first plastic free community in London , how can this experience spread to other parts of London?

I would recommend following the Surfers Against Sewage programme, anyone can sign up to be a community lead in their area and then you have the support of the charity to help you on your way. They set objectives that, once achieved, mean you are awarded ‘plastic free status’ by the charity. We hit this milestone last year and whilst it’s great to have the recognition for all the efforts of our team, the work doesn’t stop there! There are already 35 other communities in London (and over 650 nationwide) working towards their status and I was really proud we were the first to gain it in London. There may already be one in your area so go to sas.org.uk/plasticfreecommunties to check or sign up.

All the environmental stats can be overwhelming; what are your top 5 tips on how people can start to make a positive difference today in the way they live?

  1. Do a plastic audit – even if only for a couple of days collect all the plastic waste you use at home and on-the-go, clean it, keep it and then sort it to see what you’re using. Once you understand what you’re using you can then plan where to make changes. It’s always an eye opening exercise and kids love it!
  2. Reusable bags
  3. Reusable water bottles
  4. Reusable cups
  5. Once these simple swaps become habits you can start working around the house room by room. Check out our website for more tips.

The main thing to remember is not to beat yourself up. It can be overwhelming, we all have busy lives and can only do what we can do. Start small and work your way up slowly. Don’t think you’re going to change everything at once, one step at a time!

What future projects have you got lined up?

We have just announced we will be running our community cleans on the last Sunday of every month so follow us on social or sign up to our newsletter on our website to find out where the event will be each month. If you’re a local business please get in touch to discuss how you can become a Plastic Free Champion!

For more information on Plastic Free East Dulwich please visit plasticfreedulwich.org or email plasticfreeeastdulwich@gmail.com