BACK in the day when everyone had an Uncle Dan with a farm, Dan and his peers’ working lives were changed utterly by dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane — or DDT as it was called at the creamery teach-ins. For years, it was used as an insecticide with abandon. Then its dark, dangerous side was discovered. For decades, we used asbestos in buildings, but then its dark, unsustainable side was uncovered. For years, we drove diesel cars for economic reasons and because we
believed they were the best option for the environment. Then the emissions scandal broke and diesel cars sales seem in an irreversible decline.
We have reached the no-more point with plastics too, but replacing them will be a huge challenge as they are central in so many aspects of our lives. One sobering report suggests that the plastic in our oceans weighs more than all the fish in those oceans.
NUI Galway has found that 73% of the fish they analysed had microplastic in their stomachs and at some of the highest levels recorded so far. That the fish had been collected from depths of 300 to 600 metres in the north-west Atlantic shows how serious the problem has become. A lot of the plastic we use is an indulgence — plastic water bottles or one-use food wrapping — so it’s time we used our power as consumers to cut plastic use because it is far more dangerous than DTT or asbestos. Wake up and smell the plastic, as it were.