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28 October 2014

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You are in: Devon > Features > Plastic bags banned forever


Modbury was the first to impose a ban

Plastic bags banned forever

In May 2007 all 43 shops in the Devon town of Modbury stopped handing out plastic carrier bags. After a six-month trial, Modbury has now become a permanent plastic bag-free zone.

The Devon town that sparked off a national movement to ban plastic shopping bags, has gone one step further by dumping plastic bags for good.

All 43 shops in Modbury joined the town-wide ban on 1 May 2007 and after a six-month trial it is becoming a permanent plastic bag-free zone.

Since then at least 50 towns, villages and cities in the UK have announced plans to bin their plastic bags.

Cartoon from website

Cartoon from website

The town's shopkeepers are determined to do their bit for the environment by keeping the campaign going.

At the art gallery, deliveries are wrapped in second hand blankets instead of bubble wrap and at the florist's, biodegradable sheets are used instead of cellophane and raffia instead of ribbons.

In a year, butcher Simon Wilkinson will save over 100,000 carrier bags.

"It's been a fantastic success story," said Simon. "There are two other towns that are now plastic bag free and 80 towns are considering it."

The Modbury initiative was started following a suggestion by local resident Rebecca Hosking, a wildlife camerawoman.

She came up with the idea after working on a BBC-commissioned film about the effects of plastic waste on sea life around Hawaii. You can watch an extract from the film using the link on this page.

The story captured the public's imagination, and Modbury has been used as a model for others communities that want to ban plastic bags.

Rebecca has been inundated with calls from around the world including Australia, Russia and America following Modbury's ban.

Rebecca Hosking

Rebecca Hosking

But after six months in the spotlight of the world's media, Rebecca is now stepping back from the campaign to return to her career as a film-maker.

"It's been brilliant, but I want to step back," she said.

"I do pine to sit on a mountain again with the wildlife. That's me at my happiest.

"The campaign website has all the information people need and if it doesn't, then I ask people to use their commonsense.

"The reason it has spread like bush-fire is because people want it to happen.

"If other towns are to do this, the message has to come from someone who lives in the local community.

"But it's absolutely amazing what we've started here."

Instead of using plastic bags, shoppers are asked to use 100% biodegradable alternatives made from corn starch, canvas, paper or cotton.

The reusable bags are imported from a small factory in Mumbai and printed in the UK using water-based organic ink.

Plastic bag 'amnesty' bins are dotted around Modbury and those collected will be recycled.

"We never thought it would take off like this," Rebecca told BBC Devon. "I just wanted to do my bit for the environment, but it's just gone crazy.

"It's shown that local communities can really make a difference. The number of places wanting to take up the idea is growing every week - from Brighton to the Isle of Arran."

Details on how other communities can also go bag free are on the campaign's website,

last updated: 04/12/07

Have Your Say

What do you think about Rebecca's initiative and the way it has taken off? Have your say here and read other people's messages.

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

I think it is a fantastic idea and can save the world now

Alison Sturdy, Spain
When I last visited England 2008 I was amazed, that during a year, people were refusing to use plastic bags and you were asked in the shops if you wanted one. I think it is fantastic the community spirit and unity this has created I just hope we can also convince them in Spain to do the same!

Great idea! Finally the supermarkets are catching on in Florida. We have green canvas bags for 99 cents!!

vaila cochrane
Fantastic. What do you do with all those little pieces of plastic specially from round meat and fish? I plan to send the"soft and floppy" plastic I get to polyprint who make films. But what do I do with stiff plastic from around cheap scissors for instance? Sometimes it is unavoidable.vaila C.

Rachel Kempf
This is absolutely fantastic! I work in a supermarket in Pennsylvania, USA and I would love to see everyone bringing their own bags.

Jane Morgan
What a brilliant idea - We have used our own re-usable bags for years and I would love our town to follow this, Croydon, Surrey.

Ahhh Matt a littlebird who knows about these things( here in Modbury) told me one of them is going to go very soon...and nationally...... I don't know when but soon...

Susie but which supermarket ? Waitrose / co-op i would imagine would actually take note: I highly doubt its a Tescos.If one supermarket in one town can manage it, why dont they extend it to ALL their stores - maybe even carbon offset their products (but hey, lets get realistic, we know this wont happen) pity, shows their not that "Super" eh?

Susie from Modbury
Modbury does have a supermarket and three takeways, so Simon don't be too quick to rule it out...

Kathleen Heady
Absolutely wonderful! Big changes only happen one step at a time. I am going to start by banning plastic bags from my life here in Pennsylvania, USA.

Wow i am amazed a whole town can manage that ! It obviousley has no supermarket or fast food outlets.I realy dont think this can ever happen in any town in essex as our local tip is a multicolour of diffrent brand plastic bags.

Absolutely great. Now lets try this in London.In fantasy land maybe we could initiate a global shutdown of all polutant energy sources for 5 minutes all at the same time to see how the earth responds? I really think we'd notice a difference!

tim - modbury
Thank you Rebecca Hosking.She has done so much to help the environment and make us see the light here in Modbury, I wish her all the best.I hope she gets a bit of peace and quiet now - she deserves wishesTim

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