Tynemouth has won national acclaim for its efforts to combat the threat of plastic pollution along the coast.
It is the first in the region to be awarded Plastic Free Coastline status by the marine conservation charity, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), which is spearheading the national campaign.
It becomes only the second place in the country, after Penzance in Cornwall, to gain Plastic Free status.
The award follows the success by local SAS volunteers in persuading many traders in Tynemouth to swap throwaway plastic items for reusable or biodegradable alternatives.
Other key targets achieved include regular beach cleans, working with community groups, and enlisting the support of local councillors and Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell.
It means the town can now display the Plastic Free Coastline logo and participating businesses will get certificates and stickers to place in their premises.
To qualify, businesses must pledge to ditch at least three single use plastics such as cups, bottles, containers, cutlery, straws, stirrers, sachets and packaging.
Campaigners warn the sea and shoreline are being polluted by throwaway plastics which harm marine life including fish, seals, birds, and plants, and eventually enter the food chain.
Surfer Sally McGee, one of the leaders of the local campaign, said: “I’m absolutely delighted.”
“We have received fantastic support and I would like to thank everyone involved.
“It’s a great achievement for Tynemouth but this is only the start. We need to keep the momentum going if we are to make a difference. More businesses need to come on board and we would like to see the council play a leading role.’’
Mr Campbell said: “This is testimony to the hard work of local volunteers. It has been a genuine community effort with everyone, in particular local businesses, playing their part.
“It demonstrates that people in Tynemouth care deeply about this problem and are ready to work together and do their bit to solve it. We have a wonderful stretch of coastline and we all wish to protect it. Coastal regeneration is close to my heart and this award can only add to the attractions of Tynemouth as a place to live, work or visit.’’
North Tyneside Council has offered to meet campaign leaders to explore ways of working together after Tynemouth councillor Karen Bolger raised the issue in the council chamber.
Coun Bolger urged the council to support the initiative taken by Surfers Against Sewage and local businesses and to minimise the use of throwaway plastics.
The campaign was welcomed by cabinet member for the environment, John Stirling, who said the council is already taking action to encourage recycling of single use plastics and is looking at further ways of supporting initiatives to limit their use.
Local businesses supporting the campaign include restaurants Crusoe’s, The View, Riley’s Fish Shack, and Longsands Fish Kitchen, along with the Blue Reef Aquarium, which looks after injured seals.
Businesses wishing to participate can contact Surfers Against Sewage at firstname.lastname@example.org