Bettina Maidment - Plastic Free Hackney

Please tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

Im a 39 year old, mother of two.  Several years ago now I decided to try and live plastic-free and started an Instagram account to share what I was doing and meet other ‘zero-wasters’.  It kind of snowballed from there! I started PFH as a campaign group to try and get the borough to go plastic-free – I felt that sometimes there was no option for people to avoid plastic -  without the teeth of gvt legislation I felt that a voluntary scheme where retailers could offer plastic free options would therefore make it easier for others.

When did you begin to realise how important climate and environmental causes were to you?

I’ve always thought of myself as environmentally conscious ever since I was a kid but the reality was other than recycling and refusing plastic bags what was I really doing?! After the birth of my second son I think the amount of waste my family was generating suddenly jolted me awake! It seemed mad the amount of waste that a single supermarket shop or delivery could create and I guess it sickened me into action – the act of living plastic free made me aware of every aspect of how we were living and it changed every aspect of it (for the better!)

Was there some kind of event or moment that catalysed this?

Kind of answered above!

What led you to begin Plastic Free Hackney?

(A moment of madness!) I’d never done anything like this before (campaigning) but felt if I wasn’t prepared to do something why would anyone else. I started just by asking why my sons nursery wasn’t recycling and offering to audit what they were throwing away and set up a recycling system.   I then found that Surfers Against Sewage had created a template to create ‘Plastic-Free communities’ so I signed up as community leader and went from there!

How did it evolve and what attracts people to it?

Blue Planet really woke people up to the issues of plastic pollution and suddenly people wanted to do something about it, I started putting calls out for volunteers on social media and had a first meeting with 3 people! Daisy (now co director of PFH) is still with me from that meeting! We started organising litter picks which attracted volunteers and grew from there.  We now have a mailing list of about 1000 people but are still always on the look out for more volunteers as there is a lot of work to be done!  I think with the rise of XR and the Future Fridays school strikes people are starting to realise that its up to all of us  to make a change and what better way than in your local community, the climate crisis can seem overwhelming so doing something, even just a litter pick, can make you feel a part of the solution (what attracts people!)

What’s the most rewarding thing about your work?

The feeling that were making a difference no matter how small, there’s something very satisfying about litter picking an area and standing back to see it all clean!

Are there times where you have doubted your work in this field? How did you work with these doubts?

Not the field necessarily but the climate crisis is so enormous I I feel like I’m not doing enough and should be doing more on so many different topics.  It can also sometimes feel futile when you look at how world leaders are just carrying on as normal… A deep breath helps! Also remembering I’m only one person and as long as I’m part of the solution I’m not part of the problem.

Our series is about 'leading in a climate changed world'. What qualities do you think people need, to embrace the challenges we face today?

Resilience!

Putting the impact of your actions on climate change at the top of the list and ensuring that despite what others say you stick to your guns.

Are there any examples of leadership in your field that have inspired, or are inspiring, you?

There are so many people doing so much great work out there, Greta Thunberg is an obvious choice but really when you think about what she is doing at her age it’s pretty incredible.

Can you offer any advice for people who want to introduce the need to engage with environmental issues to their friends, colleagues, neighbours and so on?

Patience and the ability to stay silent! I think people feel threatened or under attack when you live in a way that differs from their own. I think keep plugging away at the msg in a non judgemental way and eventually it starts to slowly sink in.  A belief in what you’re doing and what you’re doing is right can only help inspire (eventually!)

What are your plans for the future?

At the moment just to continue to engage with schools, business and various community groups within Hackney to help them to make better, more sustainable choices.

Check out Bettina's work at https://plasticfreehackney.com/