The upsurge in public outrage toward plastic is incredible. It’s something even David Attenborough and his team can’t have predicted when they assembled those scenes of plastic pollution for Blue Planet II, which have left retailers and manufacturers scrambling to react. The public wants a solution now, a mindset that has seen some science forced out too early, pointed out Lucy Siegle, one of the panellists on Ending the Plastic Age (Radio 4, 19 September, 9pm). Bioplastics, for instance, need more work if they’re to deliver a viable alternative to the one million tonnes of fossil fuel plastics pumped out by UK supermarkets each year. The public must be patient.

It wasn’t the only complexity flagged up in this intelligent debate, either. There is overcoming the internal dissonance within UK households for one, where “on the one hand we’re so horrified by what we’re seeing” and on the other we’re convinced “we can’t live without” plastics. Then there is the problematic recycling infrastructure that sees 96% of people recycle but only one third get it right.

In juxtaposition are the painfully simple changes we could make. Retailers harmonising recycling symbols and putting a stop to overpackaging, for example.

In the long term we face big, complex challenges in weaning ourselves off plastic, but in the meantime we can channel the current momentum into small but effective changes at each stage of the supply chain. “This isn’t alchemy,” summed up Siegle. “We know what to do, so why can’t we do it?”