Banbury Charlbury Business Community Eynsham Business Network Carterton Chamber of Commerce Watlington Business Association Monument Park Chalgrove Bicester and District Chamber of Commerce Kidlington Wake Up To Woodstock Thame First The Henley Business Partnership Goring Business Network Wallingford in Business Didcot Abingdon Wantage and District Chamber of Commerce Faringdon Chamber of Commerce Chipping Norton Witney Members Oxford City & Suburbs Burford Chamber of Trade Shrivenham Neighbours

 OWP logo
Reducing the use of plastic bags:

"I have already had some very favourable feedback from my colleagues on the success of your schemes, which reflect the hard work and commitment put in by all concerned. I hope you will take encouragement from the very real changes in attitudes to plastic bags that are taking place around us, and will carry on your good work wherever possible."

Eiles Robinson, Household Waste Reduction Officer, Oxfordshire County Council

"Do you really need that plastic bag?"

Poster - Bags of Life
That's a question we hoped more shoppers in Witney would ask when they were offered a plastic bag in a town centre shop.

How it worked

The idea of our ‘Bags of Life in Witney’ campaign was that if shoppers were offered a plastic bag and said "no thanks", the retailer would give them a specially-designed voucher. The vouchers could then be given to one of the town's schools. A competition followed to see which schools collected the most, with environment-friendly prizes for the most successful. The scheme is now complete.

The vouchers have no cash or redeem value. Only 1 voucher was given for each plastic shopping bag refused.

OTCN worked with member groups the Witney Chamber and WITAN, large and small retailers, the local councils and schools, on the project.
           Kids with vouchers Plastic bag voucher  

The vouchers were designed in a competition for students at the town's two secondary schools.

Competition judges          Voucher competition

Local housing association Cottsway Housing has had 100 jute ‘bags for life’ specially produced to help its tenants play a part in the scheme, and Debenhams became the first store in the new Marriotts Walk development to sign up.

Cottsway Housing         Debenhams

"The 'Bags of Life in Witney' campaign has definitely raised awareness of the need to reduce the number of plastic bags customers use. It’s been a very good interactive project that has involved businesses, schools and the local community, and we've had a huge number of customers asking for the vouchers."
Waitrose Section Manager, Elaine Lattimore (pictured centre).

Waitrose manager

The 18 schools taking part were divided into three groups based on the number of pupils they have. The one in each category that collected the most vouchers - Wood Green, Tower Hill and St Mary’s Infants - won £500 to spend on an environmental project at the school.

Cllr Hudspeth, Oxfordshire County Council Cabinet Member for Growth & Infrastructure, who launched the campaign, says: "I am delighted with the response from the children and this should encourage parents to become more aware of the need to reuse bags that will in turn make Witney a plastic bag free town."

Joseph Rubba, Headteacher at St. Mary's, said: "All the children and their families made a big effort to be part of Bags of Life in Witney. I think being involved in this project demonstrates that young children have a significant part to play in promoting awareness of environmental issues. St. Mary's Infant School is at the heart of the Witney community and we are all proud to be part of this initiative which extends beyond the school."

Claire Lawrence-French, Forest School Leader at Tower Hill, says: "The staff and children at Tower Hill School are all very excited to have won this award. We have just started running ‘Forest School’ sessions and are developing our wildlife area known as the Dell. There are lots of possibilities and we are looking forward to the exciting developments ahead."

Dawn Athey, who co-ordinated involvement in the campaign at Wood Green School, says: "It is a testament to our students how keenly they took to supporting this community project. The project has helped them to understand the need to recycle and the ecological benefits of re- using carrier bags."

The prizes were presented at an end-of-campaign celebration event, hosted by St Mary’s and kindly supported by:


winners   winners

winners   winners

Part of a countywide initiative

A number of organisations across Oxfordshire have been given financial help towards projects that will help make their towns become free of plastic bags - one of the biggest contributors to waste bins across the world.

Oxfordshire County Council has made around £25,000 available having already used money to help fund earlier schemes to cut down on plastic bag use. Councillor Roger Belson, Oxfordshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, said: "Projects to lessen the use of plastic bags in towns are proving very popular and we are pleased to be able to provide some funding to help more places in Oxfordshire undertake such work."

Plastic not fantastic

Damage done by plastic bags

It is thought that plastic bags can take anything from 100 to 1,000 years to biodegrade. People accumulate several plastic bags on each shopping trip. This is an incredible waste of the precious resources including oil.

Oxfordshire currently recycles around 45 per cent of its waste but could still do more. The best countries in Europe recycle around 60 per cent of their waste. Less use of plastic bags would help decrease the amount of waste produced in the first place.

Wallingford world logo

Which other organisations have been awarded money?

The following organisations have been awarded funding:

Wallingford Plastic Bag Working Party
Amount: £2,000
Scheme: Wallingford already has a cloth bag scheme, and wanted extra funding to sell the bags at a reduced price and therefore make them more attractive.

Sustainable Woodstock
Amount: £2,070
Scheme: This new volunteer group asked for set-up costs for a reusable cloth bag scheme, working closely with the Wake up to Woodstock business group and local schools.

Woodstock bag Make Woodstock a Plastic Bag Free Town.

Sustainable Woodstock has received a £2000 grant from Oxfordshire County Council to make the town a "Plastic Bag Free Town". There is widespread agreement about the environmental damage caused by the billions of plastic bags that are thrown away each year in Britain. Sustainable Woodstock believes that it can buy cotton re-useable bags to sell at affordable prices and start the process of discouraging the use of disposable plastic bags.

"We have joined forces with local supplier Canby Bags of Oxford, who source all their labour and materials from ethical and sustainable sources and we've come up with the Sustainable Woodstock bag shown here on the left. We think it's a winner."

Colin Carritt, the group’s chairman said, "There are just too many plastic bags out there. They litter our beautiful West Oxfordshire countryside, they are a serious hazard to livestock and wildlife, and they take centuries to disintegrate. Many people now use re-useable cotton or jute bags and we want Woodstock to get as close to 'zero plastic bags' as possible. We were fortunate to get the loan from the County Council which has allowed us to develop our own logo and produce a really snazzy bag that will soon be on sale in many of the local shops. We plan to launch the new bags at Woodstock's monthly Farmers Market on 7th November 2009."

The group's project leader Tim Nutt said, "Earlier in the year we carried out a survey of all the town's businesses and we received overwhelming support for our plans and many offers to retail the bags for us. It's great that we are now in a position to start to market the bags to the townspeople and its visitors."

21st Century Thame
Amount: £3,500
An innovative text alert scheme, to remind residents to take their existing bags shopping. It will also promote local businesses via the texts.

Bicester Vision
Amount: £6,000
Scheme: Bicester Vision will provide residents and visitors with a highly desirable and fashionable fold-up re-usable bag to raise the profile of the town, working with local schools and the outlet village.

Low Carbon West Oxford
Amount: £1,000
Scheme: The grant will provide jute shopping bags to residents at low cost via local retailers in the Botley Road area.


Building on Success

In designing its project for Witney, OTCN has drawn on the experience of a number of its member groups who've run plastic-bag-free initiatives before. These are collected in one of the Network's series of 'How to...' guides. Details here.

For more information, email .