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The plastic fightback: Why have we launched our Cleaner Coastlines campaign in Weston?

PUBLISHED: 08:00 27 October 2017 | UPDATED: 11:23 27 October 2017

Turtles should be able to swim in the ocean without breathing in plastic.

Turtles should be able to swim in the ocean without breathing in plastic.

Submitted - Pixabay

The Mercury has this week launched an ambitious campaign so Weston-super-Mare achieves Plastic-Free Coastline Status. We are working alongside Weston Chamber of Commerce and North Somerset Council to make the town one of the first areas to achieve the award. But we need YOUR help. Reporter Sarah Robinson will sit on the steering committee, alongside representatives from the chamber of commerce, council and other interested organisations and individuals. This is why we are launching the Cleaner Coastlines campaign.

The Cleaner Coastlines campaign begins this week. The Cleaner Coastlines campaign begins this week.

I never gave plastic a second thought. I bought my fruit and veg in neatly-wrapped packages, drank Coca-Cola through plastic straws and recycled less than I should have done.

Then I saw a YouTube video of a turtle enduring an agonising procedure where a plastic straw was extracted from its nostril. I refused to touch another plastic straw. I educated myself about plastic. And I was horrified.

MORE: We need YOUR help to build a cleaner coastline.

That moment of realisation has led to this campaign, and the idea struck at the same time the chamber was about to launch its own project. We combined forces, and now we want you to get involved.

How many pieces of plastic do you think you touch in a day? Three? Five? 20? The frightening fact is, every single piece of plastic you have ever touched in your lifetime still exists in one form or another.

Imagine one single plastic item you used 10 years ago. It may have been recycled and turned into one of those reusable cups, or a fleece. Or it may have disintegrated into tiny, almost invisible parts and is now floating in the sea to be eaten by turtles and fish. It may even have become part of the food chain.

In one way or another, we are all responsible. We do not always recycle plastic items as we should. We buy packaged vegetables rather than loose ones, and thereby signal to the supermarkets we expect our fruit and veg to come in neat and shiny plastic packages.

JOIN IN: Get involved in our beach clean this weekend.

Yes, big businesses should and must change their ways – but they will only do so when we force them to with our wallets. Those big retailers look to us, the customer, for what is selling and what they should stock on supermarket shelves. This includes the packaging.

We can all do more, and we must all do more.

And change does not have to be hard. Reusing a plastic bottle instead of throwing it away can make a difference. Recycling your plastic rather than letting it end up on landfill will add up. Refusing to buy fruit and veg wrapped in plastic can signal to businesses it is time to change.

Reducing plastic waste is not impossible. The challenge is not insurmountable.

Many plastic bottles make their way to the sea. Many plastic bottles make their way to the sea.

And why not start right here, in Weston? Why not show the rest of the country how they too can be a force for change?

Over the next few weeks, we will show you how you too can get involved.

In the meantime, join our Cleaner Coastlines group on Facebook, and share your ideas, pictures and opinions and get involved in our upcoming plastic challenges. Use the #CleanerCoastlines hashtag on Twitter. And most importantly, spare a few minutes to think about how much plastic you use… and how much you really need.

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