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Plastic free protocol

About Preventing Plastic Pollution (PPP) and Plymouth City Council (PCC)

Preventing Plastic Pollution

Working in partnership with 18 organisations from across France and England, Preventing Plastic Pollution seeks to understand and reduce the impacts of plastic pollution in the marine environment. By looking at the catchment from source to sea, the project will identify and target hotspots for plastic, embed behaviour change in local communities and businesses, and implement effective solutions and alternatives.

Preventing Plastic Pollution (PPP) is a €14million funded EU INTERREG VA France (Channel) England Programme project co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (€9.9million) which will work across seven pilot sites: Brest Harbour, Bay of Douarnenez, Bay of Veys, Poole Harbour, and the Medway, Tamar, and Great Ouse estuaries.

The information gathered from research in these areas will allow the cross-Channel partnerships to tackle some of the four million tonnes of plastic waste that enter the sea via rivers every year. For more information visit Preventing Plastic Pollution.

Plymouth City Council

As Britain’s Ocean City, Plymouth City Council has a special relationship with the adjacent marine environment and has pledged to reduce single use plastics and the impact they have on the marine environment. We are the local authority for Plymouth, providing services and information to many of the area’s 262,700 residents as well as businesses and visitors.

We are on a mission to make Plymouth a fairer, greener city where everyone can make a positive contribution. We strive to have a city where services are good and people feel the benefits of a growing economy and flourishing environment.

We want Plymouth to be a vibrant, exciting, welcoming place to be for all our citizens, visitors and businesses.

About this guide

Plymouth is committed to:

  • Reducing Plymouth’s reliance on plastic – to refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle; switching to alternatives wherever possible.
  • Tackling the plastic waste that is already in our environment – limiting its impact and creating a better world for our communities, our wildlife and our city.

Adhering to this guide will be a requirement for all events hosted within the Plymouth City Council Local Authority boundary. This includes festivals, markets, events, celebrations, parades and so on, irrelevant to the size and audience.

Plymouth City Council regularly hosts and delivers world class events ranging from family friendly weekends and food festivals to large scale music concerts, Armed Forces Day, the British Fireworks Championships and the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix. Events enhance identity of place and provide a high quality, distinctive experience for visitors and local people as well as generating economic impact through visitor spend and increasing city dwell times. Major events, and one off opportunities with international appeal help to generate significant media coverage and economic impact. As a visitor destination, it is our aim to continue to grow and enhance our existing event programme to ensure we have variety throughout the year.

It is important to minimise the use of plastic at these events to lessen the devastating impact plastic pollution has on the natural environment. Single-use, avoidable plastic includes plastic water bottles, plastic cups, balloons, plastic food packaging, glitter, plastic bags etc. To date, it is estimated that 8300 million metric tons of virgin plastics have been produced and that there’s believed to be around 5 million metric tons released into the marine environment each year, just from mis-managed waste. Not only does this make our City less attractive and pose a threat to our wildlife, but the production of plastic is also a leading cause of carbon emissions contributing to global warming. Addressing these threats is vital and often very simple. Following this guide will help alleviate the pressures on our environment and help make the City more sustainable for future generations.

The problem with plastic

Plastic is everywhere in modern society. It can be found in lots of things we use every day including food packets, clothing, bags, bottles, and cosmetic items.

In many ways, plastic is a great material and the only choice for certain products (for example, medial personal protection equipment). It is versatile and can be made into many different products.

However, if plastic is used in excess or not disposed of properly, it becomes a major problem! Oil, gas, and coal are the fossil-fuel building blocks of plastics, which release powerful greenhouse gases through not only production, but also distribution, and disposal. They also pose a major threat to wildlife. Plastic contain toxic chemicals which increase the chances of diseases, they can be small enough for animals to ingest (which will cause a lot of pain and eventually death) or large enough to cause entanglement. This in turn has direct and indirect impacts on society. It is estimated that for every tonne of plastic entering the oceans is costing society $3,300 to $33,000 in terms of loss to ecosystem services.

Most people do not understand the devastating impact of plastic pollution on the natural environment, or the legacy it holds. It is estimated that some plastics, such as fishing line, may take up to 600 years to bio-degrade. That means the same way we may find medieval pottery, sculptures and artwork from the 1400s, people in 600 years will be finding our plastic waste.

To help reduce our impact, everyone needs to make a conscious effort to refuse plastic, reduce the amount of plastic they use, reuse whatever they can, and recycle anything they cannot do without.

Knowing your plastics

  • Bio-based: plastic that is made from, or partly from, a plant-based source rather than fossil fuel. Not all bio based plastics are compostable or biodegradable.
  • Compostable: for a product to be certified as compostable it must either be certified to BS EN13432 (industrial composting standard) or meet the requirements for home compostable specification.
  • Home compostable: there is no UK or international standard for home compostable, it can be certified through independent or self-assessment. Home compliant material biodegrades in home compost in under 12 months. Longer timescales are permitted under other specifications where the producer complies with the ISO 14021 requirements for self-assessment and clear labelling.
  • Industrially compostable: A blanket term which includes all forms of organic waste treatment that is characterised by high levels of control. There is a clear standard in place to test products, which sets the criteria for the acceptance at processing sites. In reality much of the UK organics recycling infrastructure is not set up to fully treat the compostable plastics that they receive.
  • Biodegradable: a term often misused. Without a specified environment and time frame, the term is extremely vague, because a biodegradable product may biodegrade in some environments and not (in any reasonable timeframe) in others.

You must ensure you have arranged a cleansing and waste collection company before the event. Try to work with them to ensure the environment is left in the same or better condition than before the event.

The waste hierarchy

  1. Avoid: Can you eliminate the product or packaging entirely?
  2. Re-think: Can you meet the outcomes in a different way?
  3. Reduce: Can you use less materials to meet your needs?
  4. Source: Is there a more sustainable product you could use?
  5. Reuse/Refill: Can products or packaging be recycled or refilled?
  6. Recycle: Are you buying products that can be recycled?

Single use plastic is products are used once, or for a short period of time, before being thrown away. The impacts of this plastic waste on the environment and our health are global and can be drastic. Single-use plastic products are more likely to end up in our seas than reusable options.

When planning you should think to yourself “does my event really need this plastic item?” The purpose of this waste hierarchy is to remind yourself and prioritise your action on plastics.


Plymouth places great importance on the sourcing and procurement of goods for public events. There are multiple policies that we must adhere to internally to ensure our event are exemplars within the City. We also ask third party events to follow our guidance for best practice.

Social value

Plymouth City Council’s working definition of social value is:

‘a process whereby the organisation procures and commissions goods, services and works in a way that achieves value for money on a whole life basis in terms of generating benefits to society and the economy, whilst minimising damage to the environment’.

The key outcome of this Policy is to maximise opportunities from our spend with suppliers in a way that make a positive social, economic and environmental outcomes delivering measurable Social Value returns. In consideration of Social Value in how the Council commissions and procures, we will:

  • Give due consideration to Social Value outcomes for all our contracts in respect of goods, works and services.
  • Apply the considerations to Social Value in a proportional and relevant way.
  • Consider it at each stage in relation to commissioning, tendering and contract management.
  • Take account of this in how we devolve goods, works or services to others.
  • Do so in a manner that makes positive contributions linked to our strategic priorities.

Buy local

Plymouth City Council is trying to support the economic recovery and regeneration of the city. There are a number of things we can do to support and encourage the local supply chain.

Value Local requirements
Up to £5,000 source a minimum of one formal quotation (nonverbal) which shall be from a local supplier wherever possible.
£5,001- Relevant OJEU
seek a minimum of three formal quotations (nonverbal) two of which shall be from local suppliers where possible.
Over Relevant OJEU
Procurements above these thresholds are currently subject to mandatory advertisement, Public Contracts Regulations 2015 or reliant on the use of frameworks therefore minimum requirements cannot be set however how the procurement can still support the Buy Local agenda must be considered and documented.

As well as considering Social Value and Buy Local Agendas, ensure best practice is upheld in the production of any items procured. This includes avoiding unnecessary plastic packaging, reducing millage of travel, and focusing on materials used to produce the products.


Here are a few questions to ask when procuring catering for an event:

  • Do the suppliers have environmental/ sustainable purchasing policies or criteria to minimise environmental impact?
  • Can they avoid as much wrappings and packaging as possibly minimising waste?
  • Could re-usable servers replace single use (for example, metal trays)? But make sure this aligns with health and safety restraints.
  • How can they avoid individual plastic packaging (for example, biscuits in individual packaging, condiments, sachets)?
  • For unavoidable waste, how are you going to dispose of it?
  • Is your supply chain the best it can be environmentally (for example, minimal travel, reduced packaging, sustainably sourced and made)?
  • How will the containers be washed and dried to ensure they can be recycled?

Decoration and dressings

Here are a few questions to ask when procuring decorations and dressings for an event:

  • Are resources used sustainable?
  • Can you source re-usable options and hire/lease/buy back schemes (for example, rent your staging, seating, and signage)?
  • Could the decorations and dressings be re-purpose after the event?
  • How will the dressings be dealt with after the event (for example, recycling)?
  • Does you signage/banners contain unnecessary plastics? Could you find an alternative such as canvas or bamboo?
  • Could you avoid putting a date on the signage so it can be reused? Some decorations and dressings will not be permitted at events within Plymouth. This includes plastic straws, glitter, balloons, and plastic confetti.

Other changes

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when arranging and procuring for your event:

  • Could you offer a water fountain/refill station?
  • Is there remit to offer a deposit return, reusable cup or refill scheme?
  • Do you really need goody bags or plastic-based prizes? „ Why not switch cable ties for string or bungee cords?

Deposit return schemes are one of the best ways to cut down on unnecessary plastic. There are many different ways to conduct them. Either you can require the public to pay a deposit for a cup that you get back when you return the empty cup (it is then taken away and washed at the end of the event ready for the next event). Or you ask them to pay to keep their cup scheme (for example, they would have to buy a cup in order to get their first drink and then the cup is refilled each time they buy another drink).

If a deposit return scheme is impossible, you should procure compostable cups. However these are not the best way forwards unless you can guarantee they are appropriately disposed of, collected and composted at the end. This must be demonstrated.

In Plymouth, we will only accept the best. Make an effort to reduce all avoidable plastics.

Waste management

When planning your event, it is crucial you have appropriately prepared for waste disposal and collection. In Plymouth, we prioritise recycling all waste that cannot be avoided, reduced or reused. It is important to limit the waste that is sent directly to landfill as it then releases pollutants into the natural environment and contributes to global warming.

You must comply with all legislation around waste removal.

Here are a few questions to ask when preparing for waste at your events:

  • Can any of this waste be avoided, reduced or reused?
  • What do the local authority or waste contractors expect or provide to help with waste management?
  • How can you do to ensure any recyclable waste is not contaminated (for example, providing signage)?
  • Is your staff trained in what can be recycled and what can’t be recycled? This can help with providing advice to the attendees of your event and your event officers in acting as guardians of the facilities.
  • Is there a sufficient number of bins for the expect amount of attendees?
  • Do you have enough signage to advertise the locations of your bins?

Providing clear signage is vital to avoiding contamination at your events. Ensure you have a suitable amount of signage highlighting where the nearest bins are located, and clear signage to demonstrate what litter goes in which bin. Lighting is also key for evening events to illuminate the locations of bins and any signage.

It is the responsibility of the event manager to arrange the clearance and removal of any litter after an event has taken place. But ensuring best practice during the event can minimise this waste enormously.


Plastic pollution continues to be a real problem because many people do not understand how massive their impact is. Everyone has a responsibility to do their part to reduce the impact of plastic on the environment.

Why not pioneer this effort? As event organisers, you have a platform to engage your fans and attendees with messaging and communications. Use it! Share communication throughout your event to promote the effective disposal of waste. Spread the word that your organisation is taking a stand again plastic pollution. Make a pledge to remove an avoidable plastic from your supply chain.

Everyone can and should have an impact.

Case study

Plymouth hosts the British Firework Championships (BFC) each year in August, an event enjoyed by locals and people from afar.

In 2018 the rules were implemented to ensure the following items were not permitted in the displays:

  • Shells over 200mm caliber
  • Aquatic shells
  • Rocket or shell parachute products

The Council is working with Environment Plymouth and TESA (The Event Services Association who are a trade body representing the outdoor events industry in the UK) to reduce single-use plastics at the competition, to lessen the impact on the environment.

Plastics are used within fireworks for a number of reasons. Some types of firework contain a plastic ‘pod’ which contains the different elements that colour the displays and these are sometimes propelled into the environment, which means they can end up in the sea. The competition rules have been tightened up this year to exclude certain types of fireworks which clearly include additional plastic.

To ensure Plymouth maintain its Plastic Free City status the following measures are being implemented:

  • A detailed audit of the displays will take place before the competition moving forward, and plastic components that aren’t necessary have now been banned.
  • Single use plastics are also being reduced on Plymouth Hoe, the main viewing point for the displays. There will be no plastic cutlery or straws available and soft drinks will be sold in cans (though water will be bottled).
  • Drinks from the bar will be served in recyclable plastic cups, which are made with 50 per cent recycled plastic.
  • Public recycling bins will be available on the Hoe Promenade and visitors will be asked to recycle as much as they possibly can and use the appropriate bins for rubbish.
  • Anyone watching from Plymouth Hoe can also bring their own reusable water bottles and fill them from the free refill points in front of the Navy War Memorial.

Visitors who watch the fireworks from other viewpoints around the city are asked to be considerate of the environment and take their rubbish home with them if there are no bins available.

Visit British Firework Championships for more information.