20 pledges for 2020: As everyone's ditching plastic, I'm feeling like less of an outsider for using glass milk bottles

I’m going to go for true zero waste to see what that really means

If I’d told my now long-departed granny I was writing about the novelty of our milk being delivered in glass bottles in the national media she would have given me a sideways look and summed up the bizarre way we now all shop in the kind of blistering one-liner that only a certain generation of Liverpudlian can deliver properly.

She’d remember a time before food and clothes and bedding and just about everything else arrived in our hands wrapped in plastic. If she’d lived, she’d would be in her late 80s by now - a witness to the dizzying social, political and economic changes of the 20th century.

She was part of a generation whose ingrained approach to consuming is unrecognisable to my children’s.

But her sepia-toned normal isn’t all that far away.

Even in their late teens, my mum and dad were still buying butter and cheese in wax paper, fruit and veg in brown paper bags that were re-used, and the very few electrical items they ever bought, well, just as they came.

Hell, I just about remember the sound of the milkman at our door before dawn as a kid and the guffawing at the introduction of pre-cut carrots in plastic bags, and I’m only in my 30s.

Those middle men looking for a new way to carve out a margin from a consumer that didn’t need or want them did an amazing job at convincing us all of precisely the opposite. And they did it fast.

They did it so well that, especially when it comes to food, we now subconsciously believe a plastic-wrapped item is cleaner, or more complete, or somehow more legit simply by virtue of its packaging.

I tried hard remember that idea – that our shift to zero waste consuming was only really about unravelling that artificial extra step – when we were first struggling to break shopping habits based on those same assumptions.

We were even told at the time - by a couple who have since made massive cuts to their own waste - that we were “regressing just to prove a point.”

Their words reverberated round my brain endlessly in the first few months after we ditched our bin, especially when I trundled up the high street to the sound of clinking glass jars, uncomfortable to be audibly marking myself out as ‘other’ without any real clarity on what I thought I could achieve.

I felt like an idiot. An overzealous convert adding unnecessary stress and complexity into my life while risking social self-sabotage for little benefit. And I felt isolated. All because of a few glass jars and a battered cotton bag.

Now though, as more of the UK’s larger retailers explore ways to ditch the plastic in response to customer and shareholder pressure, I don’t feel that isolation any longer.

Finally, it feels like the age of single-use plastic is dying out after a short, yet hideously destructive life.

It seems to me that what we’re living through now is the end of an experiment in consuming that didn’t work. For our wallets, for our health or for the state of the planet.

So what I’m clinging to now, as I did then, is the idea that we’re all just getting back to normal.

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