You could describe Rachel Bass as an eco grasshopper, jumping from one sustainable project to the other. These past months she worked for PlastiCity in Southend-On-Sea. She has a passion for the environment and a heart for her region. Her PlastiCity story might end soon, but it is not the end…
What is your role in the PlastiCity project?
I work as a Project Communication Officer. Which means I’m in charge of the social media accounts, press releases and the launch of our brand new accreditation in Spring of 2022. I’m actually covering for someone who’s on maternity leave so unfortunately I’m leaving the 21st of January. I really loved working on the project because it’s making a big difference, so I’m a little sad it’s coming to an end but that was just the way it was planned…
What attracted you to start working for PlastiCity?
The difference it was making in the area. In previous jobs I worked on a creative program, a low carbon program and helped businesses to reduce their impact on the environment. So it was interesting to look at it from a different angle and see how businesses in Southend recycle and how that’s different from businesses in other European cities.
I think it’s more important than ever to be as sustainable as we can be, because we need to act now rather than later.
What is the importance of the international part of the project?
The main difference would be that we run through the local council. So we have different processes and regulations that we have to follow. It’s been really interesting to see the differences of each region and I think it’s important that we can learn from each other. We all have different technologies and ideas and we can share those and it really uplifts the project.
The main challenge of working with different countries would probably be the language barrier. We’re lucky that most people speak English, which was helpful on our side. But different words have different meanings. And also the time difference was a challenge sometimes with early morning meetings.
What was something you found inspiring that another region did?
Everyone has a different expertise. Whoever you talk to, they always have a background in something else, which is very educational.
What would you describe as your expertise?
In my previous jobs I worked a lot with businesses, so I’m used to the audience in Southend. It was helpful to lay the contacts for meetings etc.
I think PlastiCity has changed the way plastic is used in the Southend-on-Sea community, but it is still a work in progress. People know who we are now, we’ve had a lot of communication with local organizations. Next year is where we’re really gonna go forward with the project physically. There’s the launch of our mini recycling hubs and the new accreditation. So first we wanted to be in the front of people’s minds and now they can start engaging with us.
I really enjoyed the project where children could design a logo. It went a lot better than we expected.The schools struggled with the pandemic and online learning etc. So we weren’t really expecting to get a lot of designs because they had other stuff going on but we actually received a total of 134 designs from 8 different schools so we had the really difficult task of picking 7 finalists and now the public can vote. On New Year’s Eve the final design was revealed. It was a good project to have some visibility because we had over 4000 votes so now the community also knows about the project.
PlastiCity is definitely more than just a recycling project. We’re engaging with businesses and schools. It’s also a very educational project; we’re educating people on the impact plastic, recycling and pollution have. Next year we’ll be giving training on circular economy. So we’ll give people alternatives to recycling. When you have waste it doesn’t have to be recycled, it doesn’t have to go to landfills. It can be reduced or repurposed.
PlastiCity has laid the ground for more sustainable initiatives in the area. In South-End we already had a few reduce and refill shops so it was good to network with them and see what they’re doing. But we also started speaking to other businesses on how they could reduce recycled materials or on how they can make their products more recyclable. In February we’ll have a workshop based on the circular economy and show businesses how they can implement those changes and become more sustainable. We already have a creative network in Southend so we hope that we can tap into that and work with product designers from our area.
Do you have any sustainability tips you would like to share?
I reduce my consumption of plastic. When I go shopping I always try to buy the alternative. One of my New Year’s resolutions last year was to buy nothing brand new. So I bought my clothes, furniture etc. either second hand or from a sustainable source rather than brand new from a shop where it was mass-produced and had a big environmental impact. And this resolution has nice side effects: it is good for your wallet and you support local businesses or people. In Essex, where I live, there’s also a new library with things where the community can share resources.