OPINION | Who knew it would be death by plastic?

Remember (if you're old enough) when everyone was always banging on about saving paper? In the 80s and 90s, all the talk was about how computers would lead to paperless offices.

"Won't that be good for the environment?" we said, sipping from our plastic juice container with a plastic straw, nibbling from our plastic-packaged snacks, before we tossed them jauntily into the bin.

Where did we think all that plastic was going? How did we not see that - while it was never a good idea to cut down forests to turn them into reams of paper - it was also a bad idea to use a product that never dies to facilitate the ephemera of our society.

To add insult to injury, sometimes people switched from paper products to plastic ones (such as sandwich wrap or drink containers), to "save the trees". Ironically, our remaining forests are now strewn with plastic bags and containers.

Whole industries are now built around the convenience of single-use plastics. Hospitals are an environmentalist's nightmare, with every syringe, ampoule and tube going straight in the bin after one use. The hospitality industry is another, where food packaging and service create a perfect storm of waste.

Our obsession with convenience seems to know no end. I am most certainly not immune to this addiction, finding that a trip to the kitchen to get tinned cat food from the fridge is just too much bother when I could just rip open a (non-recyclable) plastic sachet. Repeat this behaviour in a billion households several times a day, and now we're all buried in our plastic crap.

That is literally the case in parts of south-east Asia, where we blithely export our excess 'recycling' and wash our hands of it.

Sometimes I look at our enormous household recycling (which mounts up hourly), and wonder exactly what goes on at the other end of the rubbish truck journey. Wouldn't it be better if we didn't use the packaging in the first place?

Personal choices have been part of the problem - maybe they can be at least part of the solution. We can make a dent in it, and the more of us who get on board, the bigger the dent.