Opinion || Our own stupidity signals failure of fantastic plastic

What a species we are.

We have helped ourselves to the right to rule the planet, to change the surface, denude the forests, divert the rivers.

We have invented things we can no longer do without – including something invisible called WiFi, and the holy grail – plastic.

This revolutionary material can be made into just about anything and we have embraced it with both arms.

Jewellery, tennis racquets, road barriers, keyboards, building materials, kitchenware – you name it, plastic can do it.

Including, in very sheer form, bags that we have learnt to rely on to transport our shopping home.

Recently in Australia, we have been re-educating ourselves about the whole plastic bag thing.

We have finally learnt that our habit of convenience is choking the oceans, blocking whale’s blowholes and killing beautiful and blameless wildlife.

We have seen photos of landscapes blighted by rivers of waste.

Oh plastic bags, if only we had used our wisdom for good instead of evil, it might all have been different.

This move must be right. I have no problem with packing up my re-usable plastic bags and re-using them, even if I – and countless others – are often spotted sprinting out of the shop after forgetting to take them out of the car.

But, in this case, absence has definitely made the heart grow fonder.

Even as I applaud this belated truncation of our own stupidity, I miss those plastic bags. I miss them more and more every day.

Just yesterday, I had to empty the cat’s litter tray. In my bumbling conservation-conscious way, I started out buying the litter that was garden-friendly.

It cost three times as much, started to smell pretty quickly and looked unsightly in the garden. The cheaper stuff lasted longer so, to my shame, I started to buy it.

This meant I had to shovel it in a bag to get rid of it. This is my daughter’s job but there’s only so long you can wait for that to happen.

But, since the demise of single-use plastic bags, the plastic-bag bag is nearly empty. And what is left is jealously guarded.

I checked the bin to see how that bag was faring and if it might be suitable for use, only to find the bag from a clothes shop was doing a poor job of filling the gap.

On our recent holiday, I was at a loss to furnish the usual plastic bags for rubbish on the journey.

Then, when we got there, I was forced to hoard whatever bags came my way.

Oh plastic bags, if only we had used our wisdom for good instead of evil, it might all have been different.

Marie Low is an ACM journalist