Awareness is growing that overuse of plastics is a big, complicated, international issue. Perhaps just as importantly for us, though, is that it is a pernicious local problem.
Plastics in the environment and litter in general are blowing into our hedgerows, villages and towns, and blowing into the rivers, the Aln for example, before ending up in the sea.
They are locally affecting wildlife, food, aesthetics and welfare.
Locally, though, we may be able to take some steps to alleviate the problem.
Friends of the Earth visited our local SUEZ recycling plant last year and saw the good work that our recyclers are doing.
We saw that contrary to some people’s beliefs, they do try to recycle as much as possible that comes to them through the recycling bins.
We saw their various problems – tight budgets, things often put in the wrong bins and the huge costs of modifying their sorting machines so that they can recycle new types of packaging introduced without them being consulted.
Recycling is a small, though important part of any solution.
Reducing and avoiding plastic packaging, while managing our busy lives or picking up litter we see in the streets, is just as important.
How do we solve the problem, or assign blame with a view to enforcing change from the relevant authority?
The answer lies with a mixture of raising awareness and promoting activism and ideas.
It lies with all parties co-operating, consumers opening a dialogue with shops and manufacturers, and if necessary, voting with their wallets to demand the necessary change.
If we consider plastics and litter as our own Northumberland problem, we need to make the changes within our local communities to solve it. If we don’t, then it will prove to be a costly mistake.
If anybody has any ideas that are relevant to all of us, then please share them.