OVER-PACKAGING is one of the big frustrations of modern life.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to have actually damaged items while trying to rip open the layers of packaging they arrive in. On more than one occasion I have taken a knife to the plastic wrapping of a CD - and ended up scratching the case and stabbing my finger in the process. Why on earth do such things need so much packaging?

As consumers, we use way too much plastic. “Where does it all go?” I find myself thinking, gazing at rows and rows of plastic bottles, cases and packaging in the supermarket.

It’s unsettling to dwell on but, as we're painfully aware, a lot of this stuff ends up unrecycled and in the sea - with a catastrophic effect on marine environment and wildlife. We all know our way around a recycling bin, we all know how to dispose of plastic, along with glass, paper and metal responsibly, yet vast amounts of it ends up as litter, billowing around parks and fields, caught in trees and floating in rivers and seas. UK consumers use an estimated 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year - and more than three billion are incinerated, sent to landfill or end up as litter in towns, the countryside and the seas.

The stark reality is that many people don’t give much thought to what happens to their waste. It takes the occasional Facebook post of plastic bottles floating in the sea, or that shocking Blue Planet II footage of whales eating plastic and mother dolphins passing on pollutants to calves through their contaminated milk to get folk tweeting in outrage, but it’s an ultimately futile response.

The final episode of Blue Planet II laid bare the impact of human activity on marine life, with Sir David Attenborough making a passionate call for us to protect our environment from the deadly threat of plastic.

That starts with a more responsible attitude to plastic waste. So let’s hope the prospect of paying a deposit on drinks bottles and cans, repaid when handed in for recycling, will go some way towards tackling this. The Government's plans to introduce a deposit return scheme in England, subject to consultation, comes amid increasing concern over single use plastic waste, much of which ends up as rubbish polluting the countryside and oceans.

Some countries already have deposit return schemes charging an upfront deposit on drinks containers, ranging from 8p in Sweden to 22p in Germany, redeemed when the empty bottle or can is returned. The consultation will look at how such a scheme could work here, alongside other measures to increase recycling rates, which have stalled in recent years.

Greenpeace says plans could make a "huge difference to the plastic problem". Author Bill Bryson, former president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: "Future generations will look back on this decision as a piece of supremely enlightened policymaking.”

In a poll for waste and recycling company Suez, 74per cent of people were likely to return plastic drinks bottles or cans if they had to pay a 10p deposit, reclaimed when returning them for recycling. It's a tried and tested scheme that's working in other countries, and it's about time we took it on as well.

All too often, plastic is an unnecessary, irritating bugbear of modern life, but its lasting implications are sinister. When we're done with all that plastic stuff we fill supermarket trollies with, or buy on the hoof, much of it goes on to choke wildlife and pollute habitats. The future of our planet, says David Attenborough, is in our hands. We have to act now.

* IT'S a tough life, being Royal...

Princess Anne reveals she hated taking part in Royal walkabouts. Interviewed for BBC documentary The Queen: Her Commonwealth Story, the Princess Royal said: “We hated them. Can you imagine as teenagers? Hardly the sort of thing you would volunteer to do. How many people enjoy walking into a room full of people you’ve never met before? Then try a street.” She added: “Nowadays there are so many cameras you can’t see the people, especially those who insist on using iPads, they haven't even got any heads so that changes the crowd structure a bit.”

How tiresome to walk among the hoi polloi. Maybe not as tiresome as getting up for work every day to pay the bills...but then, what would the Princess Royal know about that?

* WHAT a lovely treat BBC2 sitcom Mum has been. The second series finished this week and I'm pining.

"What's it about?" asked a friend when I told her how good it is. "Erm..." I replied. There's not much "sit" or "com" about Mum, but it's beautifully written and acted. Set entirely in an ordinary semi, it's a gentle, warm, occasionally painful study of the quiet desperation of middle age. Lesley Manville (pictured) and Peter Mullan are terrific as old friends Cathy and Michael, whose unspoken understanding of each other is heartbreaking. More, please.