From the moment we wake until the moment our heads hit the pillow again, plastic is everywhere. And now, along with the plastic, Ive realised a very specific form of anxiety: Plastic anxiety, triggering what Ive now come to call Planet Attacks.
There was even a climate change paper that was so strongly worded, people went to therapy to deal with it.
But the panic doesnt stop as you reach 30, or 40. In fact, it can escalate – like it does for the Big Little Lies mums – to women like me, who worry about the planet were leaving behind for the next generation. Mums or not, every game or treat you buy a child comes with a plastic wrapper, box or coating that leaves a terrible taste in your mouth.
Thankfully I've not passed out yet like young Amabella, but I can relate. There is panic, delay (I have come close to missing a train because I've been worrying about where my re-useable water bottle is on the way to a day of meetings). My lunchbreaks when Im working in-house are thwarted by deliberation over which salad or sushi is in the least non-recyclable packaging.
This month, July is Plastic Free Month. An initiative from the marine conservation society, its brilliant – challenging you to reduce or even give up single plastic use. To recycle more contentiously and to be aware of where you could avoid using plastic. Coupled with David Attenboroughs speech that silenced the Glastonbury crowd and the recent BBC series, War on Plastic, our consciousness has arguably never been higher.
Just like many other people, I try my best to avoid single-use plastic. But, often, its utterly unavoidable. And Ive found myself having planet attacks – moments of worry, anxiousness and confusion about my plastic use – from beauty and food to the clothes Im wearing – every day. Theyre taking over my every waking moment. Guilt-laden days from shampoo to salads right through to our gins in tins and meze on the train picnic. Flinging the recycling in the shared bin outside my flat, worrying if it'll end up in the sea or landfill or really be 'a bottle again' like the bottle of water said. Buying my lunch and eating with a knot in my stomach as I don't know where the container will end up. When theres no recycling option when Im out and about, I put my litter in a bin (which used to make you feel worthy) and now feel like Im adding the mounds of plastic burning in other countries.
Please dont think Im making light of climate change. These feelings are strong, real and come daily, if not hourly. And dont just take my word for it. Planet Attacks are happening on holidays – 74% of Gen Z and millennials told Keep Britain Tidy they are triggered with guilt when they go to the beach and see plastic litter. In fact, almost two thirds (60%) experience eco-anxiety when seeing tourist destinations littered with plastic and no sustainable facilities to dispose of it. https://www.keepbritaintidy.org/news/new-research-reveals-plastic-beaches-triggers-%E2%80%9Ceco-anxiety%E2%80%9D-young-day-trippers
My Planet Attacks begin first thing in the morning. Lathering up the shampoo and shower gel, I find it hard to lose myself in the aroma of the new product Ive bought as a treat as I look at the plastic bottle its housed in. Why dont I have soap (I like shower gel!). When the shampoo bottle is finished, I look at it, guiltily, worrying if its recyclable if I dont wash it out somehow.
Then, as I dress, I put on a panty liner – I know these are plastic because Ive seen a dress made from some which washed up on a beach, clean but intact. And they come in plastic wrappers, which look all the more sinister, somehow during this regular planet attack, because they are covered in little flowers and theyre pink.
Moving on to my working morning, theres everything from a plastic biro pen to my phone cover, which I know Ill need to replace once I upgrade.
At lunchtime, Ive failed to make my own packed lunch (I dont want to every day, if Im honest) and when Im working in an office will often treat myself to something like sushi or a pre-packed salad. Sitting eating the sushi, unwrapping sachet after sachet of ginger and soy sauce, then decanting them into a little plastic pot to dunk the sushi into, my appetite wanes. All this plastic is sticking in my throat. Another planet attack, right there.
If it is my own packed lunch, the ingredients (salad, meat) will have come from more single-use plastic so the worthiness of a home made lunch is negated.
I know Im not alone in having developed a sense of plast