British city set to be the first in the UK to go ‘plastic bag-free’

UK’s first plastic bag FREE city: Shoppers in Cambridgeshire town will be given 500 fabric sacks to reuse and share with others

  • Tourism board in Ely has launched a ‘borrow bag’ scheme to encourage recycling
  • Bags given to customers for free and are passed around to keep in circulation
  • Local shop owner Lesley Partridge first sounded out idea to recycle fabric bags 
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A city in Cambridgeshire is to become the first in the UK to go plastic bag-free.

The tourism board in Ely has launched a ‘borrow bags’ scheme that will encourage its 20,000 residents to scrap plastic and make reusable bags from old fabric.

Bags will be given out to customers for free, where they will ‘borrow’ bags in the city centre and pass them on to keep them in circulation.

Local shop owner Lesley Partridge first sounded out the idea to recycle fabric bags in a bid to make the city more eco-friendly. 

The city hopes to have more than 500 bags in circulation by Christmas. 

Bags will be given out to customers for free, where they will ‘borrow’ bags in the city centre and pass them on to keep them in circulation. Pictured: Samatha Barrett (left) and Claire Tombs (right) outside Ely Cathedral

Ms Partridge, owner of Sew Much To Do, said: ‘Paper bags are easier to recycle but they’re expensive for small traders to buy, so these fabric bags are more environmentally and economically friendly.

‘We’ve got to work together to sort out the problem of plastic bags. As a sewing shop, we’re well placed to make a difference with this scheme.’

Bag-making sessions have also been organised by Ms Partridge to help residents reduce their plastic consumption.

Ely has joined the national Morsbags initiative which asks volunteers around the country to donate fabric.

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All the bags will have the ‘Ely Borrow Bag’ logo, a Morsbag tag and each bag will be added to the national tally.  

Tracey Harding, tourism, town centre and events manager for Visit Ely, said: ‘This is a fantastic initiative and we really hope local people and businesses will become involved.

‘We are extremely grateful to local shop Sew Much to Do for co-ordinating a series of group sessions which will kick start the project and make Ely another step forward to becoming a plastic-free city.

‘Each bag is tagged with Visit Ely so they can be identified as we are expecting tourists to take them far and wide and will use £elyborrowbag to help spread of the word of our beautiful city.’

Customer Amanda Nearney and Annebel Butcher at the shop ‘So much to do’ with the new homemade bags created in Ely

Ms Harding added that the city’s modest size will help its bid to be a plastic-free city centre.

She added: ‘It would be great to say we have achieved that. We’re not the size of Cambridge or Oxford so we have a relatively small, tight network of shopkeepers,

‘Many have already switched to cloth and paper bags and Waitrose is committed to reducing single-use plastic too, so we are hoping the momentum builds.’

The Governemnt has tried to clamp down on the country’s plastic consumption. 

As part of the drive, Theresa May announced plans to increase the levy on bags from 5p to 10p. 

She has also promised to erdicate all avoidable plastic waste in the country by 2042.  


Ten years ago, the Mail launched a trailblazing campaign to rid Britain of the scourge of plastic supermarket bags — prompted by a heartrending, shaming picture of an endangered turtle entangled in one, which was used on the front page.

The success of our Banish The Bags initiative has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Now, in a landmark series that could have just as big an impact as that front page a decade ago, we’re here to assure you that you really can make a difference — and your actions can help save our beautiful world and its animals.

The Mail’s Turn The Tide On Plastic campaign isn’t intended to make you feel guilty about plastic you depend on. Instead, this series will guide you through small daily steps you can take — with little expense or effort — to make dramatic inroads into reducing the amount of plastic you use.

Even simply changing one habit — such as using the reusable coffee cup we’re giving away today, instead of a throwaway cup — will help decrease the demand for new plastics. If every Daily Mail reader uses their cup just once a day in place of a takeaway cup, millions of plastic-lined paper cups will be saved from landfill in a year.

It’s simple maths. Use a plastic bag twice and you halve your plastic footprint. Buy one bar of soap and you may spare the planet two or even three pump-action hand wash bottles. Inspire someone else and the impact is doubled.

We’ll tell you how to double your recycling efficiency overnight, banish plastic from your kitchen and dodge food packaging. Better yet, you can even shop to save the planet with gorgeous — and reusable — plastic alternatives.

It’s never too late to start…

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