AN ENVIRONMENTAL group which recently gained national attention for its reusable cups campaign has said it is encouraging ‘plastic swaps’ wherever possible - including to tackle the rising issue of disposable face masks.

Sustainable Overton captured the attention of green campaigners across the country after it launched its Overton Cup initiative, which allows residents to ‘rent’ a reusable cup for just £1, and return it to a coffee shop in the area.

However, the group doesn’t plan to stop there, with numerous initiatives in the pipeline, including plans to adapt the same idea to reusable shopping bags.

Throughout the pandemic, the environmental impact of disposable PPE has been concerning to environmentalists, with a survey conducted by Basingstoke-based company TradeWasteUK in November 2020 concluding that 58.8m face masks are being used daily in the UK, with 10 per cent reused and 90 per cent discarded, and 53.3m face masks sent to landfill each day.

Sustainable Overton has said it understands that plastic face masks are a ‘necessary evil’ in some industries, but hopes that positive campaigning can help them to alter habits around plastic usage.

“It would be ideal if people could have cloth ones that they could wash, but it’s not always possible,” said chairperson Alison Zarecky.

“We would encourage cloth ones, but we don’t want to make them feel bad if they can’t do that. It’s a necessary evil for some unfortunately.”

Alison added that the group is urging people to dispose of their PPE responsibly, not only for hygiene reasons, but also due to growing concerns surrounding littering during lockdown.

“We have noticed a really big increase in general litter since lockdown,” she said.

School children in Overton are ‘adopting a street’ and using litter pickers, while the Coop has also secured funding for litter-pickers which the community can borrow.

Alison continued: “We are passionate about trying to make Overton a plastic-free village.

There is a lot of legislation that needs to be changed around plastic, and it’s always in the pipeline. It just takes years.

“We try and encourage people to find a ‘plastic swap’, so if you have the option of a reusable cloth mask, then we’d say wear it, but if you absolutely have to wear a plastic one, then at least put it in a bin!

“We try and draw a line between informing people, encouraging them and giving them options, but we don’t want to be seen as dictating to people.”

However, the group says that litter wasn’t the only thing to increase throughout the pandemic, as they noticed more community engagement too.

“We noticed over lockdown we have had lots more volunteers come forward who just want to make a difference,” said Alison.

“People just want to do things that are positive. It’s the habit changing. It takes a lot of time for people to change habits, they say three months. And only individuals can do that.

“The positive thing is a lot of people have got good intentions and that seems to be quite catching, and mindsets are changing. But it takes time and lots of initiatives.”