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Plastic symbolizes a world of the past that didn’t care enough for the environment

Plastic production is still increasing and no major company has a realistic plan to reduce their use of it, writes Will McCallum


There isn’t a single path to giving up plastic and the routes will vary across countries and communities, but there is a single message: that we need to stop producing so much of it.

Our throwaway culture has gone too far and the silver lining to the plastic bags strewn across our beaches is that it is forcing us to wake up to the fact that we cannot continue living in a society where it is acceptable to use something once before putting it in the bin with no thought as to the end of its life.

The plastic littering our neighbourhoods is waking us up to the need to snap out of an economic model based on producing and consuming cheaper and cheaper goods with no consideration of the long-term cost to the environment of what we use.

My new book How to Give Up Plastic is more than a guide to ridding your home of unwanted plastic waste, it’s a guide to joining the growing movement around the globe who say that plastic symbolizes a world of the past that didn’t care enough for the environment we depend on.

It is true that plastic has already reached into the farthest corners of the world and been found in the stomachs of ocean creatures that have never come into contact with humans before.

It is worrying that plastic production is still increasing and no major company has yet come up with a realistic plan to reduce their use of it.

I was shocked to hear that some geologists see the discovery of plastic in layers of rock as the sign of a new geological age where humanity’s footprint has become visible – they call this the Anthropocene.

However, it is also the case that awareness of this issue is stirring up something big across the world, unleashing a wave of dissatisfaction that so many of those I have spoken to share about the way in which we live our lives; that being so dependent on products that are doing us no good in the long term is a source of unease.

Whether it’s wandering a tideline littered with plastic fragments on the beach you love, watching YouTube videos of animals getting freed from a plastic snare or worrying about what all this plastic is doing to your health – you’re reading this extract from my book because you know that the cost of inaction is too great.

Plastic pollution and the speed with which it is increasing can – like so many environmental problems – be quite scary and overwhelming. There’s no point in pretending otherwise.

If we try to minimize the problem in our minds, all we’ll do is tell ourselves a lie that it’s not that big and then our actions to solve it won’t match the scale of the problem.

Instead we should embrace the monumental task ahead and start using the immense power we have in our own lives and our community to tackle it.

By facing up to the reality of the world we live in we can approach our future boldly, confident that the power of millions of people around the world fighting for the same thing cannot help but have an impact.

Equally, we shouldn’t say plastic has no benefits. It’s precisely because it does that it’s been so successful and we’ve all enjoyed its benefits.

Cheap and hygienic, it has improved the quality of life for millions.

Let’s accept that, like the last drink at a party, it was a good idea at the time, but it’s turned out pretty terribly.

This article is an extract from Will McCallum’s new book How to Give Up Plastic

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