Back in Brussels. Not to present Brexit news, but to speak to MEPs at the European Parliament. They want to hear about Sky TV’s campaign against plastic pollution. It feels dangerously liberating, presenting an argument with the conviction of an activist, rather than with the even-handedness of a referee.
The case, however, is pretty robust. Even my wife, a sceptic on climate change, gets fired up about the way we throw away so much single-use plastic. She is the kind of woman who will pick up, rather than walk around, other people’s litter. So for her, plastic marine pollution is just plain bad manners.
It’s also a peculiarly modern phenomenon, symptomatic of a throwaway culture. My grandfather used matches to light his pipe. Failing that he refilled an ancient Zippo. Now the plastic equivalent ends up in the sea, where it will take about 400 years to break down into polymer nano-particles.
The same disposable exchange has been made in so many areas of our lives, almost without us noticing. Where once we would wet a flannel, now we pluck at a wet wipe. For many, the clink of a milkman’s bottle on the step is nothing but a distant memory. A razor you don’t dump after using – how quaint! And on it goes. Plastic water bottles make sense if you’re worried about cholera, but in Britain?
The clincher for me came last summer. My eldest daughter went to the Reading Festival and, to my disbelief, left her tent behind. “Oh Dad, everybody does that now,” she protested. The throwaway culture now has deep roots.
A lot of this plastic gets recycled. But globally, much of it ends up floating down a river into the sea where it is concentrated in huge gyres – ocean currents which spin plastic items in vast vortexes before dumping them on pristine beaches. That’s the visible stuff.
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