CalMac latest to start phasing out single use plastics across its fleet

FERRY operators CalMac says it will review the use of disposable single use plastics and straws after being lobbied by school pupils and politicians. 

It comes after a delegation of school children from Sunnyside Primary in Glasgow under the Ocean Defenders banner gave them a presentation on their #NaeStrawsAtAw campaign.

It also follows pressure from MSP Kate Forbes who wrote asking them to back calls for straws to be ditch with other plastics. 

Ocean Defenders, a group of Primary 7 eco campaigners, impressed the company’s new Community Board with their passion for conservation when they presented to them in Oban.

The 12-member board was set up last year to provide an independent community voice on issues facing their communities.

‘When Sunnyside Ocean Defenders first got in contact with CalMac last year we knew we needed to hear more about their campaign,” said CalMac’s Environmental Manager, Klare Chamberlain who organised the school’s board visit, along with Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Shona Neil.

“The company is extremely concerned about marine litter and the blight it can have on the marine environment across the west coast.

“Their Ocean Defenders group provided both CalMac and the community board with an extremely informative presentation highlighting the dangers of single use plastics and provided us with samples of suitable alternatives which we could adopt.”

Last week rival operators NorthLink Ferries  stole a march when it launched a raft of measures to get rid of disposable plastics, even down to sauce sachets.

Chamberlain said CalMac have also been planning some green changes.

She said: ‘We have been working with our suppliers over the last year or so to identify alternatives to single-use plastics and with our waste contractors to ensure than any alternatives can be suitably managed.

“I am delighted that CalMac Ferries can support #NaeStrawAtAw and ban plastic straws on-board and look forward to spreading word of the campaign across the communities we serve.

“Our procedures are also changing so that straws are only available on request.

“All other sources of single use plastics on board are also under review and we hope to be able to announce further changes over the coming months”

Highland MSP Forbes said she hoped that the development at the ferry operator would encourage other transport operators like the ScotRail Alliance to take similar action.

Ms Forbes wrote to CalMac earlier this month asking them to reconsider their stance.

And she said: “This is tremendous news and I’m absolutely delighted that CalMac have agreed to ditch plastic straws.

“CalMac staff, of all people, will no doubt see the impact of single-use plastics on our coastline and wildlife as they serve communities right along the west coast.

“It is a tribute to CalMac’s vision and leadership that it was willing to consider the importance of this campaign to ban plastic straws and then back it.

“They are leading the way and I hope that other transport organisations, such as ScotRail follow CalMac’s lead.”

She continued: “I launched this campaign to ditch plastic straws in January because I firmly believe that Scotland should be leading the way.

“Not only do we have miles and miles of coastline, but our economy is built on the back of beautiful scenery, delicious food and ambitious innovation.

“Banning plastic straws will improve our scenery and the quality of our food.

“There are alternatives and where these still need to be worked on then I hope that public bodies will ensure we have reliable alternatives to plastics.”

The Scottish Wildlife Trust Trust also welcomed the move.

The Trust’s Living Seas Communities Officer Noel Hawkins said: “It’s great to see a message that started with primary school children having such a big impact.

“These kids may only have wee voices but by speaking up together they are definitely making themselves heard.”

“I’d like to congratulate Sunnyside Primary School, CalMac, and all of the people and businesses in Scotland who have listened and committed to reducing their plastic usage to help protect our seas and wildlife.”

“In order to turn stem the flow of plastic waste that is harming Scotland’s marine wildlife we will also need communities and businesses who aren’t as close to the coast to realise they can make a difference, but it definitely feels as if the tide is turning though great campaigns like #NaeStrawAtAw.”

WANT TO LEARN MORE? Read:  Schools ‘Nae Straw At Aw’ campaign is hailed by First Minister at Holyrood

 IMAGE CREDITS: CalMac/Sunnyside Ocean Defemders

Shaun Milne is a Scottish based journalist with a particular interest in environmental issues, politics and travel.

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