COMMENT:

Plastic is one of the world's great inventions. Like fire, the wheel, the internal combustion engine and more latterly the smartphone, it has transformed the way people live.

But its time is up. Or rather the time for many unnecessary uses of the stuff is up. One hundred and eleven years after Leo Baekeland introduced the world to the convenience of Bakelite, the first plastic, this omnipresent compound is out of control.

If we'd stuck to what plastic actually means – capable of being moulded or shaped – then it would have been all right. There's nothing wrong with a plastic box or container which can be reused over and over. Plastic guttering and drainpipes have been a boon for the building industry. Plastic is useful in cars, aeroplanes, contact lenses and in orthopaedic medicine.

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But plastic has become a scourge because somewhere along the line some people took its strong, pliable and convenient qualities and turned them into an environmental nightmare. The world would be a much better place if we'd never invented polystyrene, plastic wrap and plastic bottles. Plastic packaging is a disgrace.

That for years we shipped so much of it offshore to be dumped somewhere in western China is another black mark against this country and its environmental record. What can possibly be right about dumping our rubbish in someone else's backyard? No wonder the Chinese put a stop to it.

Apparently we still send a whole lot of the stuff to be dumped in other countries in Asia. That's not good behaviour.

But we have huge piles of plastic rubbish in our own country and they're growing bigger by the day. There is only one way to stop those piles growing. Stop using the stuff.

It's the packaging and the convenience of plastic that has created this nightmare.

It's not that cool to remember what life used to be like, but surely we can start addressing this huge blot on our environmental landscape with a return to some old fashioned non-polluting habits?

Why is milk in plastic bottles? It used to be in glass. Why can't it be now?

What's better for the world – a plastic container used once and thrown in a landfill or a glass bottle sent back to be washed and filled again?

The milk industry will bleat but too bad. The price of a litre might go up a few cents to pay for washing and sterilisation but that isn't the end of the world. Yes, there will be waste water but isn't that better than waste plastic, let alone the process needed to make the plastic in the first place?

Once we're buying our milk in glass bottles again, let's address fruit and vegetable packaging.

Why do we have options to buy carrots and apples already packed in plastic bags? Why not just collect them loose in your own shopping bag? The plastic bags are nothing but a marketing ploy from the supermarkets to get you to buy lower quality produce in more bulk. But there's a plastic bag left over at the end which has to be disposed of.

It just never stops.

What's with that awful polystyrene stuff you get in every pack of meat at the supermarket? And the plastic wrap that completes the package? Together it's a hideous combination. Products with no further use headed for the landfill. Any chance of our meat being wrapped in paper? We're not short of trees and Shane Jones says we'll be planting a whole lot more.

Don't get me started on bottled water. Buying that stuff in plastic bottles is as sensible as riding a bike on a motorway.

The great attribute of plastic is that it can be reused. The problem is that mostly it isn't.

Plastic bags and plastic packaging are a blight on the country and we don't know what to do with the ever increasing piles of the stuff.

Do your bit. Don't be lazy. Take your own shopping bag and pick your fruit and veges loose. Get meat at the butcher's counter and ask for it to be wrapped in paper.

Buy your drinks in glass bottles. Have your own box or plate when you buy sushi.

Stop laughing at this. I'm not that much of a greenie but I hate the mess plastic is causing.

Recycling isn't working. Dumping overseas just isn't right. The only person who can stop those plastic piles growing is you.

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