A seagull picks a plastic crisp packet from the sea

Plastic pollution How to reduce plastic in the ocean

The problem with plastic

David Attenborough's Blue Planet 2 exposed the shocking truth about plastic pollution.

Viewers saw heartbreaking footage of albatross parents feeding their chicks plastic waste – and other creatures like turtles and dolphins being harmed by the plastic we throw away.

It's not just marine life that suffers. Plastic waste ends up in our countryside and waterways, harming wildlife everywhere.

Put a stop to pointless plastic.

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What is plastic pollution?

Plastic pollution is any plastic that ends up in the environment – from bottles and bags to less obvious sources like teabags and clothes.

In the past 100 years humans have produced a lot of plastic. It's cheap, strong, light and versatile. So it's not surprising we're using tonnes of the stuff. All of it eventually ends up in the ground, in the sea and even in the air.

Our plastic waste has invaded the highest mountains and deepest oceans. No one knows how long it will take to disappear – but at least hundreds of years.

Get single-use plastic out of stadiums

Some stadiums are starting to offload unwanted plastics, for example by trialling reusable pint cups. Others have pledged to reduce single-use plastic across their stadiums. But no team is anywhere near claiming the title of plastic-free.

We want clubs to commit to our plastic pledge. Will you help us get single use-plastic out of sport?

Plastic in the food chain

Scientists have detected tiny plastics (smaller than 5mm) in salt, beer, seafood and human stools.

These microplastics break off bigger plastic items, or come from products like car tyres and cosmetics. They even wash off synthetic clothes.

Once they enter our rivers, soils and oceans, they can get into the food chain. As of yet, the impacts on our health are unknown.

How does plastic harm the environment?

Plastic sticks around in the environment for ages, threatening wildlife and spreading toxins. Plastic also contributes to global warming.

Almost all plastics are made from chemicals that come from the production of planet-warming fuels (gas, oil and even coal).

Our reliance on plastic therefore prolongs our demand for these dirty fuels.

Burning plastics in incinerators also releases climate-wrecking gases and toxic air pollution.

What is Friends of the Earth doing?

There are ways to avoid pointless plastics (keep scrolling for ideas below).

But all our best efforts are in danger of being undermined. Businesses are set to churn out more plastics, making our reliance on them even harder to avoid.

We need the government to step in. We need a law to phase out single-use plastics now. That's what we're working on. How can you help? Click the green button.

How to stop plastic pollution

  • Support a new law to phase out non-essential plastics.
  • Buy less stuff (go for second-hand where possible).
  • Use reusable bags for your groceries.
  • Get a reusable bottle and coffee cup.
  • Make a packed lunch instead of buying sandwiches.
  • Wash your clothes at low temperatures.

What is the best alternative to plastic?

The best alternative to single-use plastic is something that you can use over and over again – or something that can be easily recycled or composted.

But it isn't always easy to know when you're buying plastic. It can be present in crisp packets, coffee cups and even teabags.

So we've come up with a list of really good alternatives to plastic.

Help us reduce plastic pollution.

Sign the petition now

What happens to recycled plastic?

Plastic is usually recycled into a lower-grade product. For example, a plastic bottle is likely to be made into polyester, which may then end up in a fleece jumper. Sounds good, but that fleece will shed tiny plastic fibres that will get into the environment and spread pollutants. So recycling plastic just delays the inevitable escape of pollutants into our soils, air, seas and waterways.

That's why we're campaigning for a new law to phase out all but the most-essential plastics.

How much plastic is in the ocean?

The total amount of plastic entering the marine environment is over 12m tonnes a year – according to a report by Eunomia in 2016. For comparison, a double-decker bus weighs about 12 tonnes.

Sea creatures can get tangled in plastic or mistake it for food, and the effects are often fatal. Harmful chemicals linked to plastic have been found in species from plankton to dolphins.

Support our call for a new law to phase out pointless plastics.

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