Roman Road Trust collaborated with 200 Queen Mary University of London students to complete an audit of the consumption of single-use plastics by businesses and shoppers in Roman Road. The audit marked the launch of the Plastic-Free Roman Road project which is being led by the newly named Globe Town Assembly (previously known as the Globe Town Steering Committee.)
The week began with all 200 students meeting at The Ecology Pavilion in Mile End Park. The group enjoyed inspirational talks from the QM Geography Department focusing on Green London. Ellie Mackay from The Plastic Tide also attended, giving an insight into the impact of single-use plastics on our oceans. Local green campaigner and Chair of Cranbrook Community Food Garden, Lizzy Mace, energised students with her passion for going plastic-free.
Students were organised into smaller audit groups with half of students completing the survey on Tuesday and the remaining half on Thursday. Both audit days began with a briefing outside Bethnal Green Tube Station in which Roman Road Trust shared tips on speaking with business owners and conducting surveys effectively. Students then hit the high street with the aim of conducting around eight surveys per audit group.
At lunchtime students, QMUL Geography staff, and Roman Road Trust regrouped in Meath Gardens for a plastic-free picnic. The group was joined by Tunde Morakinyo and Joanna Milewska from Friends of Meath Gardens who explained the fascinating history of the former cemetery site as well as sharing recent developments in Meath Gardens.
Students were also shown the underpass between Meath Gardens and QMUL campus which is currently closed. Both students and staff expressed the positive impact that opening the underpass would have. It would allow students direct access to the fantastic green space that is Meath Gardens and guide them directly into the businesses on Roman Road.
On Thursday, Roman Road Trust held an information stall on Roman Road Market (just outside Idea Store in Bow.) This was a chance for local residents, businesses, and shoppers to ask more about the Plastic Free Roman Road Project and find out about our plans for the future of the project.
Roman Road Trust also conducted a series of voxpop styled interviews with shoppers on Roman Road. Most shoppers expressed concerns about the amount of single-use plastics used by businesses in the high street with particular emphasis on the famous ‘blue plastic bag’ and takeaway containers. Almost all shoppers said they carry their own reusable shopping bag.
On the final day, the 200+ group met in the Ecology Pavilion for a celebration and sharing event. The QM Geography Department presented the initial findings and insights from the data. This was followed by a panel discussion with local businesses which was led by Lizzy Mace. Mehmet Guzel from Simply Fresh and Kerry Mounsey from Verry Kerry (part of Bamboo & Bee) spoke to students about the ways in which their businesses are already paving the way of reducing single-use plastics and increasing sustainability as a business.
Simply Fresh operates a bring your own bottle scheme where customers purchase a glass bottle which can be refilled with wine or olive oil. Simply Fresh also holds a range of Ecover cleaning products where customers can refill their empty Ecover bottle.
Verry Kerry specialises in ethically made and sustainably sourced clothing and accessories. Some items are even made from transforming upcycled cartons and fabric off-cuts into beautiful garments and accessories.
Throughout the week, QM Geography undergraduates collected a total of 83 responses from businesses. Although data is still being analysed, it is immediately clear that businesses are interested in adopting alternatives to single-use plastics. Two thirds of businesses said yes to switching to alternatives. The biggest concern raised by businesses is cost and where to begin to make these changes.
Data is still currently being analysed and the full results will be shared as soon as possible.
Roman Road Trust would like to say a huge thank you to the Geography Department at Queen Mary University of London with special thanks going to Alastair Owens and Stephen Taylor.
Thanks also goes to Lizzy Mace from Cranbrook Community Food Garden for providing the inspiration and energy behind the Plastic Free Roman Road project.
Thanks to Tunde Morakinyo and Joanna Milewska from Friends of Meath Gardens and thanks to the Globe Town Assembly for supporting and attending events throughout the week.
Finally, biggest thanks goes to the 200 QM geography students for their hard work in successfully launching the Roman Road Plastic Free project.
Photography by Massimo Iannetti & Alessandro Volpino