When the hell are we going to stop making so much plastic?

My folks first bought this old house near the sea in the sixties. It had no electricity, no phone, no heating. Open fires and paraffin lamps and candles did the necessary. And the wood to keep the fires burning came from that washed up along the shore in the tideline. One of my favourite jobs as a kid was collecting it up, lugging it all back to the house and sawing it up. Nothing more satisfying than watching a woodpile grow.

Now, though, there is hardly any wood in the tideline. It is all plastic.

Plastic bottles, plastic tubs, plastic cartons, plastic bags, some with dog poo or nappies in them, plastic beach toys, plastic rings from round a four-pack but now round the beak of a dead sea bird and occasionally the odd plastic chair.

Looks lovely doesn’t it? (Joking, of course)

What astounds me is that folks actually place the dog poo in a bag in the first place before they toss it in the river. It would be more ecologically sound to have tossed it without the plastic. And what also astounds me is that people can so mindlessly abandon their rubbish with such disregard for the consequences; how people can be so irresponsible.

Irresponsibility scares me witless. Of all the less attractive traits of human nature irresponsibility must be the one that does the most damage to a fellow human being and to the planet – which ultimately will mean the same thing. And the second thing that scares me is our irresponsibility with plastic.

We thought plastic was so progressive, modern, exciting. It was, it is, but it also the opposite, it is destructive and unless we take better responsibility for our use of it, we may one day think it was the worst thing ever invented. There’s no doubt it has its uses but I do not need my pears wrapped in a plastic pear-shaped carton, inside plastic film and inside a plastic bag. I do not need another plastic bag every time I go in a shop (I sometimes have to fight the shop assistants to stop them giving me one). And we should all be more responsible about re-use rather than re-buy.

We must stop producing plastic at the rate we are and to make that happen it’s up to us to minimalise our use and purchase of it and wean ourselves off dependency on it. Or it will not just be the tideline that’s full of it. It will be the whole planet.

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