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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 October 2007, 13:22 GMT
Leader bows out of bag campaign
By Jonathan Morris
BBC News, South West

Rebecca Hosking
Rebecca Hosking's passion for wildlife started on her father's farm
Six months ago all 43 shops in the Devon town of Modbury stopped handing out plastic carrier bags.

Instead, shoppers were asked to buy biodegradable bags made from corn starch, canvas or cotton.

Since then at least 50 towns, villages and cities in the UK have announced plans to bin their plastic bags.

Rebecca Hosking, who led the campaign in Modbury, has told BBC News she is now stepping back to return to her career as a film-maker.

Ms Hosking's concern for the environment started as a young girl on her father Roger's 200-acre farm near Modbury.

"Dad is a very traditional farmer," said Ms Hosking, who is 33.

Modbury's scheme has been the template for others around the UK

"He farms round the wildlife. If he found a dormouse he would cut round it."

When she was still at school a camera crew from the BBC's Natural History Unit (NHU) in Bristol came to film the farm's wildlife and Ms Hosking helped out on set.

Several years later, after finishing a degree in photography she won a two-year bursary to the NHU.

And it was working on a BBC-commissioned film about the effects of plastic waste on sea life around Hawaii that led her to start the local campaign.

"I came home determined to carry on diving and was amazed at how much plastic there was in the sea off Devon," she said.

"I would emerge like a creature from the deep with bags full of rubbish dangling from me.

"I wondered how I could get through to people what was happening."

Modbury sign
Modbury is proud of its ground-breaking status

She showed her film to Modbury traders and they said they would back her campaign to ban plastic carrier bags.

Ms Hosking found herself at the centre of a big news story when Modbury became the first UK town to go plastic bag free on 1 May.

The pressure got so bad that she spent a month in hiding.

She was also offered lucrative contracts to be the environmental face of big firms, but turned them down.

"I don't want to be a puppet," she said.

"As soon as you make money it chips away at your soul a bit. I would rather be a lot poorer and happier."

An estimated 17 billion plastic bags are still handed out each year in the UK.

Environmentalists can be a bit preachy, but this campaign is really simple
Rebecca Hosking
But plastic bags have now become an icon of throwaway living, she said.

"The issue of plastic bags is small environmentally, but socially it is huge," she said.

"People have started thinking about other environmental issues such as packaging."

Modbury has made its six-month trial permanent and details on how other communities can also go bag free are on the campaign's website, plasticbagfree.com.

"The website has all the information people need and if it does not I ask people to use their commonsense," said Ms Hosking.

The change in Modbury has also spread to Maui in Hawaii which is in the process of banning plastic bags.

"The reason it has spread like bush-fire is because people want it to happen," she said.

"Environmentalists can be a bit preachy, but this campaign is really simple."

But all Ms Hosking wants to do now is get back to nature.

"It's been brilliant, but I want to step back," she said.

"I do pine to sit on a mountain again with the wildlife. That's me at my happiest."



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