Treasuring everyday items

January 12, 2018

A fisherman prepares his net on the shores of the Arabian Sea, littered with plastic bags, in Mumbai, India.

The view from the verandah can be confusing for ordinary lawn mowers.

For instance, once upon a time plastic was the shiny new face of modern life offering an eternal germ-free existence of throwaway bliss.

At last, cups and plates would never shatter.

Bottles, spoons and straws could be nonchalantly tossed away by tanned people running through the surf in teeny weeny polka dot plastic bikinis.

For decades, life was easy and slick as we sailed effortlessly into the new space age world of plastic picnic sets, teflon saucepans, plastic lenses, and chemical food.

My mum was absolutely thrilled when freeze-dried potatoes appeared.

She no longer had to spend hours peeling potatoes — just add hot water and, bingo! Instant mashed spud.

She also had a set of plastic cutlery and plates that could be thrown into the bin after parties or a TV dinner.

I was equally thrilled when salt and vinegar flavoured crisps appeared.

Fat slices of oven-toughened potato in paper bags with a tiny blue paper bag of salt buried somewhere down the bottom were fun in 1965.

By 1970 they were so yesterday.

Now we had bright plastic bags brimming with thin potato slices sprinkled with exciting new flavours like E4530, which apparently translated into salt and vinegar on your tongue.

Similarly, we had frozen fruit juices bursting with sugar and packed into plastic tubes.

Never mind that these juices had never been near a piece of fruit in their short, nasty and brutal factory life — they tasted like day-glo birthday party heaven.

Now the convenience of plastic and our throwaway culture is returning to us in vast lagoons of filth that circulate the globe’s oceans and haunt our dreams.

I cannot sit idly by while the oceans choke.

I now demand to be served my morning coffee in a re-usable glass cup instead of a throwaway plastic one.

Yes I know it has a rubber grip, but that looks bio-degradable.

I take my lunch to work in a re-usable wrap instead of a plastic container.

The wrap is washable and looks like a clever piece of polymer engineering, but it’s coloured green, so it must be better than see-through plastic, which could strangle a turtle.

I take my own re-usable shopping bag to the supermarket.

I refuse plastic bags in shops.

Prince Finksi’s lead is a leather one, not one of those horribly indestructible nylon ones.

I also sneer at people who drink coffee in throwaway cups and leave supermarkets weighed down by plastic bags.

It’s not much, but I’m trying to save the world one coffee and one sneer at a time.

It has been pointed out that my watch strap is plastic, but it’s not leaving my wrist any time soon.

However, if we turned the clock back and returned to wood and leather for everyday items, this would mean vast deforestation and killing countless animals.

Perhaps the answer lies in learning to treasure the everyday items and not throw them away.

Anyway, back to the view and the lawnmower.

That plastic bin looks faded... the plastic oil cap is loose, the rubber tyres have seen better days.

Might be time for a trip to the sea — via the tip.

John Lewis is chief of staff at The News.

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