By Joanna Roughton.
I recently recorded a video diary for a TV news item.
It involved a week in which my family and I would try and cut back on the use of plastic in our home.
The TV producers wanted to underline to viewers just how much single-use plastic we throw away.
Because, when things like plastic bottles, containers and wrapping end up in the bin, they often find their way into our seas.
Once in the ocean, the plastic enters the food chain. On current trends, by 2050, the amount of plastic in the sea will weigh more than all the fish.
So a problem then.
How did we get on?
Well, the first thing to say is that when you try to abstain from using something, you recognise the scale of the problem.
It’s a little like giving up wine for Lent. You might not succeed, but at least you acknowledge how much you’ve been getting through.
Perniciously, the amount of single-use plastic we use grows year on year.
When I was a child, the milkman delivered our milk in bottles. Now it comes in plastic. Years ago, when you bought a soft drink you paid a deposit on the glass bottle it came in. Now it comes in throwaway plastic. Plastic straws have supplanted paper straws. Plastic cups have taken the place of paper cups. On and on it goes.
But it’s only when you make a conscious effort to notice that you realise how much plastic has rendered itself seemingly indispensable to our everyday activities.
There is an alternative, of course. It is possible to ignore the supermarket and use a market. You can buy fruit and vegetables from a stall. They are wrapped in paper bags, or you can tip them straight into a ‘bag-for-life’.
And, because most plastic-wrapped food is processed, by cooking more food from scratch, the plastic burden falls.
Much of the plastic in our kitchens is there for our convenience. It speeds things us up. Reducing our dependence on it is time consuming.
When women like my mother ran a home, they had time to return bottles for a deposit or to chat amiably to stall-holders in the town centre market. Now we all work, the scope for such time-consuming, environment-protecting activities has withered.