8 million pieces of plastic are making their way into the ocean every day, an estimated 8.3 billion straws are on coastlines around the world and 1.75 billion single-use plastic bags are still being handed out by supermarkets in the UK. With plastic never fully degrading this has already and will continue to have a huge impact on our planet. The 5p plastic bag levy (which will soon increase to 10p) has helped to reduce the number of bags being used and there are other nationwide schemes available, however much more still needs to be done.

Many of the local businesses and organisations in and around Totnes have been making a conscious effort to reduce, reuse and recycle for many years now. Most recently the Plastic Free Totnes campaign has been developed, a community-driven movement aimed at reducing the use of single-use plastics across town. Formed from the Transition Town Totnes Waste Into Resources group in partnership with Totnes Rubbish Walks and Totnes Against Trash, they have signed up to the ‘Plastic Free Communities’ campaign led by Surfers Against Sewage which sets out 5 objectives for the town to meet including replacing single-use plastics with sustainable alternatives.

Many businesses including Waterside Bistro have signed up to Refill Devon, a free tap water initiative designed to reduce plastic pollution by making refilling a water bottle easy, social and rewarding.

Earth Food Love was the UK’s first zero-waste shop and is based at the top of the High Street in the area known locally as the Narrows. The shop was started by ex-Manchester United player Richard Eckersley and his wife Nicola after their frustrations with how much packaging they used as a family. With a simple self-weighing system, consumers can bring in their refillable pots and buy everything from flour to peanut butter, tea, fruit, syrup and many more food items, plus non-food items including washing up liquid, wooden toothbrushes, metal straws and bamboo cutlery.

Other businesses who are striving to significantly reduce their waste and actively encourage recycling include the riverside restaurant Waterside Bistro who feed their coffee grounds and vegetable peels to the owners’ chickens, and the Totnes Brewing Company who feed excess malt and grain from their brewing process to local pigs.

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As a small, independent, family-run brewery, the Totnes Brewing Company is very close to zero waste and has a very low carbon footprint. With the main brewing area at the back of the bar, you can watch one of your future pints being made while sipping on your last, and the benefit of production taking place on site is that it significantly reduces carbon footprint. Many beer kegs are now made out of plastic as they’re lighter and easier to transport but of course, they’re not environmentally friendly, therefore owner Sarah Trigg reuses them as seats for the pub or gives them to the local community for free to be used as garden cloches.

As a nation of dedicated coffee drinkers, Brits are throwing away 7 million disposable coffee cups every day. As they are very difficult to recycle due to the layer of a waterproof plastic inside, this is adding to an already massive problem. At The Hairy Barista, a speciality coffee shop on High Street, they actively encourage people to use reusable coffee cups and they themselves use compostable straws as well as supplying and using vegan, organic and plant-based ingredients, food and drink.

Delphini’s  also use compostable cups, lids and spoons for take away gelatos, Waterside Bistro has banned plastic straws and The Kitchen Table, a bespoke catering company, use recycled or compostable kitchen supplies and take-away crockery and cutlery.

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Discount to emergency services workers

Bayards Kitchen is offering all those who work in emergency services 10 per cent off food and non-alcoholic beverages at its Dartington café to coincide with the launch of its new weekly pizza evenings. The café, which was taken over by Charlie and Zuzana Deuchar in November 2016, is a thriving hub for the local community and beyond, with safe play areas for toddlers indoors, and eclectic menus that includes vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Now Charlie and Zuzana want to give back to the local emergency services by giving them a permanent discount off all food and non-alcoholic drink orders. Charlie said: “People who work in the emergency services spend their working lives looking out for others and saving lives. “This is just something very small that we can do to show how much we respect them. We’re very much community focused and its great to be able to thank those in our community who are devoted to helping others. This is just a tiny perk to let them know how much they are valued.” Those eligible for the discount include NHS workers, armed service personnel and those who hold a Blue Light Card, which provides a multitude of discounts for armed service personnel. The discount will be launched on May 18, at Bayards Kitchen’s inaugural pizza evening. “We’re really proud to be supporting the emergency services in this way, and we thought the perfect time to launch would be at the first of our Friday night pizza nights when everyone who comes along will be given a free glass of prosecco. Everyone loves pizza and we’ll be offering eat in and take out service,” said Charlie. To view the pizza menu visit www.bayardskitchen.co.uk

A UK first in Totnes

Totnes has always attracted forward-thinking businesses with social responsibility at the core. Earth.Food.Love is the UK’s only, family-run, organic, bulk-buy, zero waste shop! Focusing on creating a better future, they decided to look back to the past, where eating real food with minimal packaging was normal practice. They believe returning to these simple ways will benefit not only our own health, but the planets too. The shop stocks a wide range of products such as grains, cereals, beans, legumes, flours, sugars, herbs, spices, loose leaf teas, nut butters, syrups, oils, vinegars, cleaning products and personal care products. Everything is self served and priced by weight, eliminating the toxic and wasteful packaging. Just take along any bottle, jar, tub or container; if it can be weighed, it can be used. Earth.Food.Love is located at 101 High St, to find out further information check out their website www.thezerowasteshop.co.uk. You can keep up to date by by liking their Facebook page.

The Dart and Totnes – Bridges and Bridgetown

Flowing from two sources on Dartmoor, down to the sea at Dartmouth, Totnes is an important stop along the River Dart situated between the moors and the river's mouth. The town offers an excellent jumping off point for exploration of the river whether by foot, boat or canoe, and is the point where it becomes tidal. Even for those who just want to admire the river without getting their feet wet there are many ways to enjoy the Dart, and many things Totnes has to thank the river for – and the two bridges crossing it. Bridges and Bridgetown Totnes Bridge has the honour of being the last bridge to cross the Dart before it reaches open sea, as plans to build a railway bridge across the river mouth from Kingswear to Dartmouth in the late 1900s never came to fruition. There have been multiple bridges across the river in Totnes beginning with a river ford and evolving to the familiar stone bridge today. It was once a toll bridge that separated Bridgetown from Totnes until it was opened up on October 31st 1881 for everyone to cross. A second bridge was built in 1982 and although less picturesque than the older bridge was necessary for the increasing amounts of traffic passing through Totnes and across the Dart. It is named the Brutus Bridge after the legendary founder of the town. Whichever side of the bridge you're on there are many places to enjoy the river from. Vire Island is worth a visit for anyone looking for a nice spot to enjoy a picnic. Although not a proper island the 400m peninsula is named after the French town Totnes is twinned with (not Narnia) and is the perfect spot for contemplating the river from in the summer. And there are plenty of restaurants  and cafes to eat or enjoy a drink in, high tide or low, rain or shine.