Plastic under the microscope: Why I was shocked by my plastic waste... and what I am doing about it

PUBLISHED: 16:00 20 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:17 20 November 2017

Reporter Sarah Robinson holding her haul of plastic.

Reporter Sarah Robinson holding her haul of plastic.


It is easy to say ‘reduce your plastic, it is harming the environment’ but how simple is it to actually do? As part of our Cleaner Coastlines campaign, chief reporter Sarah Robinson put her shopping habits under the microscope.

Join our Cleaner Coastlines campaign.Join our Cleaner Coastlines campaign.

For years, I never gave plastic a second thought. I bought my fruit and veg in neatly-wrapped packages, used plastic straws and recycled less than I should have.

Then I saw a video of a turtle enduring an agonising procedure where a plastic straw was pulled out of its nostril. I refused to touch another plastic straw.

When I got involved in the Mercury’s Cleaner Coastlines campaign, alongside Weston Chamber of Commerce and North Somerset Council, I was fairly educated about plastic. I knew it did not degrade for as much as 1,000 years, was killing wildlife, and millions of tons of the stuff was ending up in the sea.

MORE: Why have we launched our Cleaner Coastlines campaign?

Sarah Robinson's collection of plastic after two weeks.Sarah Robinson's collection of plastic after two weeks.

I made changes to my shopping habits as a result – yet I was still shocked by the 42 pieces of plastic packaging I accumulated when I tracked how much plastic I collected in a fortnight.

Believe me, storing your plastic in your living room and being confronted by the reality of it day after day is a bit of a shock.

I got off to a bad start, as I had not brought lunch to work and so bought a ready meal. It was convenient for me, but less convenient for the environment as plastic film cannot be recycled kerbside. It was yet another piece of plastic on its way to landfill – and that is the best case scenario.

Most of my plastic was film, the kind found on plastic meat containers, and not all of it was avoidable, as envelopes with plastic film landed on my doormat.

Debbie Apted from the Weston Chamber of Commerce collected this plastic during the challenge.Debbie Apted from the Weston Chamber of Commerce collected this plastic during the challenge.

What was avoidable was the horrible mass of plastic freezer bags and clingfilm I threw away – I will be replacing them with reusable boxes.

MORE: 5 ways your business can help Weston gain Plastic-Free Coastline status.

Other people who also kept track of their plastic waste said they would use fruit and vegetable shops to avoid food wrapped in plastic packaging and will ask butchers to put meat into boxes instead of plastic bags.

I was already aware of how much plastic is ending up in the seas, and the harm it does, yet I still found more easy ways to change my behaviour.

If my challenge reminded me of anything, it is that plastic is not bad in itself and much of it can be recycled – the trouble is partly that not enough actually is.

To join the challenge, search for Cleaner Coastlines: Weston and North Somerset plastic-free campaign on Facebook.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Weston Mercury. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Weston Mercury