Head to the kitchen, open your fridge and cupboards, and take out everything that’s made of plastic. The list goes like this – and that’s just one room!

Bags of pasta, rice, bottles of olive oil or soy sauce, blocks of cheese, cartons of milk and juice, packaging around meat and fish, bags of spinach is the new normal.

Even two-packs of avocados, or cherry tomatoes, herb and spice jars, washing up liquid bottles, sponges, everything is part of the $100 billion plus industry.

The news that the British government in London is considering changing the way plastic is recycled in England has prompted questions about how exactly it is recycled, the answer to which is not very effectively at all.

Of all that plastic you found in your kitchen, two thirds cannot be recycled. Even the thermal paper your shopping receipts are usually printed on contain BPA and cannot be recycled.

Apart from that, 70% of potentially recyclable plastic in Europe ends up in landfill, in oceans or are incinerated, leading to the release of devastatingly harmful toxins into the environment.

Meanwhile our marine life is fast becoming extinct, our air is so polluted that limits and benchmarks are becoming laughable, natural disasters are more devastating than ever and, of course, the planet is hurtling ever closer to “disastrous” levels of global warming.

Plastic – unlike glass or metalcannot be recycled infinitely, and after a handful of times it will be discarded, where it will take centuries to degrade. One single water bottle will remain on the planet in some form for a minimum of 450 years.

It’s clear that something needs to change, and it’s not about recycling. If we want to truly address the devastating impact of single-use plastic the answer is simple: governments must focus on stopping its production entirely.

Single-use plastics should be immediately banned, or at the very least heavily taxed. This is not radical: the British government legislates against self-inflicted danger all the time.

Plastic bags, straws and disposable coffee cups are a start, but until the manufacturing of single-use plastic is truly penalized, we won’t be able to end this horror show.

Living a sustainable life should not be a left-field choice for the elite, it should be the norm for us all. The onus is on political leaders to make it impossible to profit from manufacturing single-use plastics.

Recycling is not a solution to our plastic problem: it’s just an easy cop-out for cowardly governments, greedy corporations and pointless consumers to hide behind

The Independent / Crickey Conservation Society 2018.

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