I WRITE this surrounded by the debris of my £3.39 bargain lunch from Boots. I get a portion of chicken and bacon pasta in a plastic box with a plastic fork sealed under a plastic wrapper, a couple of pieces of mango and melon in a plastic box with a small plastic fork sealed under a plastic wrapper, and a watermelon and raspberry smoothie sealed in a plastic bottle.

After a week’s hard work and a la desk dining, it is impossible to move in my little office for throwaway plastic.

Globally, we produce 320m tonnes of plastic year (that will double by 2034). Every day, eight million pieces of plastic go into the sea, to join the 5.25 trillion pieces already there. Plastic makes up nearly 90 per cent of marine debris; 59 per cent of washed up whales have our plastic in their bodies – the sperm whale that died ten days ago on the beach at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea in Northumberland had a plastic bag in its stomach (although it didn’t cause its death, it didn’t help its digestive system).

On Wednesday evening, I had the nerve-wracking pleasure of compering the 30th Durham Environment Awards at Hardwick Hall in Sedgefield. The outstanding successes of Bishop Auckland grabbed the headlines, but I was most taken by the initiatives on reducing single use plastic.

In the schools category, Sedgefield Community College was highly commended, partly because its pupils pressured the headteacher into installing 14 mains water points and giving each pupil a refillable personal bottle. In the first four months of operation, they estimated this removed 14,000 single use bottles from use.

So we’ll double that to represent the school year: 28,000 bottles. There are 265 schools in County Durham. Assuming Sedgefield is an average-sized school (and with 983 pupils, I accept it is one of the biggest), 7.42m single use plastic water bottles a year could be removed from circulation.

Elsewhere in the awards, the County Durham Single Use Plastic Pledge scheme won the Waste Management category. Here, organisations pledge to reduce their plastic consumption. For example, the Gala Theatre in Durham has replaced the 750kgs of plastic confetti it showers on its audiences a year, and which then get sucked up by its vacuum cleaners, with paper confetti.

Swimming pools in the county have stopped providing blue overshoes to spectators, thus preventing 2.4 tonnes of plastic going into the waste system.

The highways department has just used 6.5 tonnes of unrecyclable plastic in resurfacing the A689 near Sedgefield, again preventing it from going to landfill.

Perhaps the most aggravating aspect of single use plastic is that it is there purely for our convenience. Why do swimming pool spectators need blue overshoes when they could just use the bare feet that they come naturally equipped with?

Why do I need ten plastic forks a week from Boots – forks I cannot reject because they are sealed into the plastic boxes with my pasta. I don’t really need my watermelon and smoothie, either, because I could get a cup of tea in my reusable china mug, but to qualify for the bargain £3.39 meal deal, I am forced to select a drink in a plastic bottle.

So the schools and schemes of Durham are to be commended both for removing plastic for circulation and for beginning the change in our complete mindset which is needed to tackle this pollution.