The woman behind a campaign to protect the Penzance coastline from plastic pollution has had her work recognised by the Prime Minister.

Rachel Yates is the latest recipient of the Points of Light award, which recognises outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their achievements.

Shocked by the amount of plastic washed onto the shores after winter storms in 2015, Yates created ‘Plastic Free Penzance’ and began working with local businesses to find plastic alternatives. She runs regular plastic-free clinics to provide guidance to businesses on giving up plastic and has persuaded more than 30 of them to ditch single use plastics for good, making Penzance the UK’s first plastic free town.

In a personal letter to Yates, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Your work to turn the tide on the consumption of single use plastics has inspired individuals and businesses alike to play their part in proudly creating the UK’s first plastic-free town. Your trailblazing efforts are motivating communities across the UK to follow in your footsteps and will protect the environment for generations to come.”

Yates said: “There are hundreds of people across the UK working tirelessly to tackle single use plastic as part of the Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Communities movement.

“So for me this is an acknowledgment for each and every one of them as well as the swathe of businesses, organisations and individuals who have got behind the Plastic Free Penzance campaign. I am always bowled over by the level of support in the town and am hugely grateful and proud of what we are trying to achieve.

“I hope that together we can bring about positive change, empowering individuals and communities to take action which benefits the world we live in – not just environmentally but socially and economically too.”

Yates is the 989th winner of the Points of Light award, which has been developed in partnership with the Points of Light programme in the USA. Over 6,000 Points of Light have been awarded in the USA, and former Presidents have publicly supported the partnership with Points of Light UK. There is a similar cross-party approach to the UK programme and MPs from different parties often present their constituents with their Points of Light awards.

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