A SCIENTIST aiming to rid Chester of plastic drinking straws has been accused of using his campaign as a front to gain support for the Conservative Party.
Dr Christian Dunn, from Hoole, started a petition last month with the goal of making the city the first in the UK to become ‘straw free’.
It came as the media spotlight turned towards the issue of plastic being dumped in the world’s oceans, described by the United Nations as a “planetary crisis”.
But some – including industry publication British Plastics and Rubber – have drawn attention to the fact the petition must be accessed from the City of Chester Conservatives website.
They claim the campaign is nothing more than a means of harvesting contact and mailing details of local people for use by the Tories.
However, Dr Dunn told the Leader: “This is my campaign, supported by Chester Conservatives, and if any individual, any group, any political party want to work with us on #StrawFreeChester then I’d welcome them with open arms!”
The father-of-two, who works as a lecturer at Bangor University, stressed there is an option on the petition to opt out of receiving political party correspondence from the Conservatives.
He added: “I understand some people may be reluctant to sign something on the Conservative website so I’d say start your own petitions for #StrawFreeChester. We just need to know how much support there is out there.
“I’ve even seen an online piece by a plastics industry-based news site complaining about the campaign too – I think if they’re getting riled we’re doing something right!”
The article on the British Plastics and Rubber website states: “This campaign website links directly to Chester’s council Conservative group, who in a somewhat uncharacteristic stand against freedom of consumer choice, have backed the campaign and encourage supporters to submit their details to the party mailing list.
“The campaign is an example of a greenwashing ploy to ‘ride the wave’ of awareness about marine plastic.”
Dr Dunn stood as a candidate for the Conservatives in the borough council elections for the Blacon ward in 2015. His wife Carlotta also stood for the City ward. Neither was successful.
He said: “I’ve heard grumblings from individuals and groups saying it’s a political campaign.
“Yes, Chester Conservatives are supporting #StrawFreeChester, but this only came about because of a random chat with Cllr Jill Houlbrook following a community gardening event at the Countess of Chester Country Park.
“She got Chester Conservatives to support me and they threw themselves into it and backed it to the hilt.”
He said that so far the campaign had gained good momentum and has secured the support of the Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) group. He has also approached Greenpeace.
“I’ve been genuinely surprised by the fantastic response of #StrawFreeChester,” Dr Dunn said. “I’ve had parents coming up to me at the school gates, people talking to me on the train and even lads from my boxing gym wanting to talk about it!”