Five easy ways to cut down on your plastic use

The far reaching effect of plastic pollution is beginning to impact parts of the world where the footfall is small. Credit: AP

The dire effects of plastic pollution are affecting even the most remote parts of the world.

  • What is the current situation?

Up to 12 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the sea each year, weighing the same as about 60,000 fully-grown blue whales.

The main source of this waste comes from plastic drinking bottles and packaging. There is around 70kg of plastic in each square kilometre of sea bed.

Only 9% of all plastic waste has ever been recycled.

Most of the commonly used plastics are not biodegradable. In 2015 6300 million metric tons of plastic was generated and 79% of it accrued in landfills or was left in its natural environment.

700 or so marine species have been found entangled in plastic.

From microscopic plankton to whales plastic affects species' ability to digest food and reproduce.

One million plastic bottles are bought worldwide every minute.

This figure is expected to rise by another 20% by 2021.

  • So how can you help?

"Try to avoid all single use plastics ... if you can cut out bottles, cups, straws, bags, cutlery it makes such a massive difference," says Amanda Keetley, founder of Less Plastic.

Ditch your plastic coffee cups and get a reusable cup

There are several brands that offer environmentally friendly cups in which you can carry your morning coffee.

The JOCO Cup, Frank Green Smart cup and KeepCup are a few to help you get started.

Get a plastic-free lunch box

If you enjoy a packed lunch there are several ways to carry your food into work while avoiding the use of a plastic box.

Buying specially made wool or linen bags or a stainless steel box can make for an environmentally friendly option.

Reusable water bottle

A good way to avoid the store-bought plastic water bottle is to buy your own aluminium or stainless steel version.

Or, if you just have to have a fizzy drink, look for bottles that are compatible.

"If you're buying a carbonated drink in a plastic bottle, let's try and pick a plastic bottle that's highly compatible with recyclability," suggests Richard Thompson, a professor of marine biology.

"If I talk to the recyclers of course the bottle they want are clear plastic, not the ones with the colourings in, because the presence of those colourings reduces the value to a recycler."

Resist the temptation to use a plastic straw

While plastic straws are potentially the hardest plastic product to avoid, given it comes with most cocktails at the bar, the only alternative is to 'just say no.'

Fruit and vegetable purchases

When shopping in a supermarket avoid buying fruit and vegetables wrapped in single-use plastic, or go further afield.

"Go and shop at your green [local] grocers or your butchers," says Friends of the Earth campaigner Rosie Cotgreave.

"Lots of our supermarkets are full of unnecessary plastic packaging. They'll package up broccoli and oranges and all that in plastic pollution which isn't needed."

  • Re-use items where possible

"Try and buy second hand where you can," says Less Plastic founder Keetley.

"Especially if you can buy it locally, you're not going to have the plastic packaging - furniture, books,clothes, kids stuff, all that is brilliant for buying second hand."