How best can a community develop a 'Plastic Free Town'?

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis


The problems of plastic pollution are well researched and well documented. Due to a recent surge in media and political attention, there has been a shift in public perception on the issue. This has led to a proliferation of the concept of 'plastic free' and it is hoped that this can protect marine life and further current sustainability approaches. Some community-based initiatives have taken this notion on board and there has been a growth in 'Plastic Free Towns'. However whether 'plastic free' initiatives can 'snowball' into other sustainable behaviours, or are a 'distraction' from more pressing environmental issues, is contested. This research therefore aimed to assess the best way for communities to become 'plastic free'.

To achieve this, the case study of ‘Plastic Free Anstruther’ was selected. Through interviews and an online survey, possible changes as a result of this ‘plastic free’ initiative were captured. This included establishing what it means to be ‘plastic free’, examining the displacement effect and assessing the initiatives sustainability. Individual environmental behaviours and perceptions on environmental issues were also assessed. Finally, drivers for change, barriers and incentives were examined to facilitate discussion on the best way for communities to develop a ‘plastic free’ initiative.

It was found that although plastic alternatives were available, lack of appropriate infrastructure creates further waste management challenges for these materials. It was clear that the ‘single-use’ mindset persisted which also limited the ‘snowball’ effect. Self-transcending values and locus of control are important drivers for change but individual norms are also relevant. Therefore the best way to develop a ‘Plastic Free Town’ may be dependent on community characteristics. It is argued that attention be focused on encouraging more circular approaches and individual behavioural change in order to reduce waste, enhance incentives and to improve sustainable outcomes in all three ‘spheres’ – economic, social and environmental.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Civil And Environmental Engineering
  • João, Elsa, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date14 Sept 2020
Place of PublicationGlasgow
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2020


  • plastic free town
  • environmental campaigns
  • environmental conditions
  • sustainability


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