Plastic Pollution

Right now an estimated 12.7 million tonnes of plastic – everything from plastic bottles and bags to microbeads – end up in our oceans each year. That’s a truck load of rubbish a minute.

This pollution is having a dramatic impact on ocean wildlife, the environment, our well-being and ultimately our health

Right now an estimated 12.7 million tonnes of plastic – everything from plastic bottles and bags to microbeads – end up in our oceans each year. That’s a truck load of rubbish a minute.

Travelling on ocean currents this plastic is now turning up in every corner of our planet – from Cornish beaches, to uninhabited Pacific islands. It is even being found trapped in Arctic ice.

Our oceans are slowly turning into a plastic soup and the effects on ocean life are chilling. Big pieces of plastic are choking and entangling turtles and seabirds and tiny pieces are clogging the stomachs of creatures who mistake it for food, from tiny zooplankton to whales. Plastic is now entering every level of the ocean food chain and even ending up in the seafood on our plates.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

We are calling on big corporations to act to reduce their plastic footprint – and stop producing excessive plastic packaging that is designed to be used once then thrown away.

We are also calling on governments to act to tackle this problem, by creating closed loop systems that allow us to recover and reuse materials rather than waste them.

It’s not too late – if we act together now we can protect the world’s precious oceans for future generations.

How Does Plastic Get In To The Ocean?

Even if you live hundreds of miles from the coast, the plastic you throw away could make its way into the sea. Once in the ocean, plastic decomposes very slowly, breaking down in to tiny pieces known as micro plastics that can be incredibly damaging to sea life. 80% of plastic in our oceans is from land sources – but what does that really mean? Where is it coming from? How does plastic get in to the ocean?

There are three main ways the plastic we use every day ends up in the oceans.

1. Throwing plastic in the bin when it could be recycled

Plastic you put in the bin ends up in landfill. When rubbish is being transported to landfill, plastic is often blown away because it’s so lightweight. From there, it can eventually clutter around drains and enter rivers and the sea this way.

2. Littering

Litter dropped on the street doesn’t stay there. Rainwater and wind carries plastic waste into streams and rivers, and through drains. Drains lead to the ocean!

Careless and improper waste disposal is also a big contributor – illegal dumping of waste adds greatly to the plastic surge in our seas.

3. Products that go down the drain

Many of the products we use daily are flushed down toilets, including wet wipes, cotton buds and sanitary products. Microfibres are even released into waterways when we wash our clothes in the washing machine. They are too small to be filtered out by waste water plants and end up being consumed by small marine species, eventually even ending up in our food chain.

A positive move in recent months was a ban on microbeads in rinse-off cosmetic and cleaning products introduced by the UK Government, so that these small plastic beads will no longer get washed down the sink and out into our oceans, but there are many more items that can also contribute to the problem.


How does plastic get into the ocean? The bottom line is us. Whether we mean to litter or not, there’s always a chance the plastic we throw away could make it into the sea, and from there who knows? Maybe as far as the Arctic. 

Big changes start with small steps and we all have the power to make a difference. What will you do to start cutting the plastic in your life?

10 Things You Can Do To Help Reduce Plastic Pollution

Eight million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans every year, killing and harming marine life.

We’re supporting Sky Ocean Rescue’s #PassOnPlastic campaign to tackle the plastic pollution crisis that’s choking our seas – and you can help! Together, we can help to put an end to this plastic surge by cutting out small, everyday plastic use. Here are ten tips to help reduce your plastic waste.

1. Fix your caffeine fix

Carry a reusable coffee cup or flask. Around 2.5bn coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK alone – that’s seven million a day! Less than 1% of these can be recycled, meaning most spend up to 50 years in landfill, after lasting just minutes in your hand. Lots of coffee outlets offer a discount when you use your own cup and there are many eco-friendly options out there. 

2. Bring your own bottle

Plastic bottles are one of the most frequently found items on beach cleans globally. The lids commonly end up in seabirds’ stomachs.

3. Say no to plastic cutlery

By carrying a spork, reusing your plastic cutlery or going for a compostable alternative, you could personally save 466 items of unnecessary plastic every year. It’s thought that we use plastic cutlery for just 3 minutes before throwing it away!

Plastic cutlery

4. Straws suck

Straws are sucking the life out of our oceans. But there is an easy fix to this one, if you don’t need one, don’t use one. Plastic straws and stirrers can take up to 200 years to decompose. Opt for paper straws or ditch them altogether and try the age-old sipping technique. Is it really worth taking a plastic straw with your Strawberry Daiquiri when the straw could remain in landfill long after your 100th birthday?

5. Ditch the cling wrap

Unlike cling film that cannot be recycled, foil is recyclable. So if you are using foil, make sure you put it in the recycling bin after use! Another alternative is the new Beeswax Wraps. Made using 100% cotton, Pine Resin, Jojoba Oil and local Beeswax they are 100% natural and environmentally friendly. This means no nasties will leach into your food whilst it’s stored, they’re reusable and compostable. Plus, they come in fun patterns!

plastic free lunch Copyright Global Warming Images / WWF

6. Teabags

Use loose leaf tea with a tea strainer instead of teabags that are sealed with plastic. Or give plastic free tea Pukka Tea and Teapigs a go! Disposing of teabags ultimately leads to microplastics entering our waterways and eventually our food chain. Things are changing, though: PG tips are bringing in biodegradable teabags this month, and we hope other brands will soon follow.

7. Give up gum

Britons are the second biggest consumers of gum in the world, chewing an estimated 130 sticks per person each year. Chewing gum (made from plastic itself) can be swapped for plastic free alternatives such as Glee or Chewsy!

Plastic rubbish bottles floating in a dock in middlesbrough, Teeside, UK, in foam

8. Glitter, the one member of the party that NEVER leaves!

Glitter is made from plastic of such a small size it’s especially lethal to our oceans. This microplastic can eventually end up in our food chain as plankton and shellfish can ingest it. But don’t worry, you can still sparkle guilt-free! There are many ranges of eco-friendly, biodegradable glitter out there.

9. Bring back the milkman

Consider getting your milk delivered in glass bottles which are reused and recycled instead of your usual plastic pint. Many milkrounds also offer fruit juices too. Join the 4% of the British population who still get their milk delivered!

10. Become a wine bottle sommelier

What’s more satisfying, popping a cork or the modern screw top? Choose wine bottles with natural cork stoppers instead of plastic stoppers or metal screw caps (which contain BPA, an industrial chemical used to make certain plastics). Visit to explore the range of wines using cork stoppers.

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