Top 8 ways to reduce plastic litter and ocean pollution

Did you know that 12 million tonnes of plastic pollution enters our oceans and waterways every year? Of this, 9.5 million tonnes enter via the land through beaches and rivers, and the fishing industry throws in 1.75 tonnes! 


We all have a part to play in reducing this figure. From simple lifestyle changes to purchasing second-hand, we’ll guide you through 8 practical actions that can significantly impact the health of our oceans and the well-being of countless marine species.


Let’s jump into the top 8 ways to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean.


1. Ditch the carrier bag

Bringing a reusable bag to the supermarket is a simple way to reduce plastic consumption. 

Often, supermarket plastic bags are used for a short time before being discarded or broken. This can lead to significant plastic pollution in the ocean and poses a genuine risk to marine life. 

In fact, 100,000 marine animals are killed each year due to plastic bag pollution, and less than 1% of these bags are properly recycled! Do your bit to reduce ocean litter and bring your own bag.

2. Say no to straws

Straw Plastic Pollution

Although using plastic straws doesn’t feel like a big deal at the time, through mass consumption they end up polluting waterways. Straws are easily carried by the wind or currents and can easily be washed into rivers and oceans. This contributes to plastic pollution in the sea and is a risk to marine life. 


When people collectively refuse plastic straws, it reduces the overall demand for the product. Make a simple switch to paper or glass straws to reduce your ecological footprint and reduce plastic in the ocean.  

3. Bring your own coffee cup

Disposable coffee cups are usually discarded after a single use. As a result, they’re often improperly recycled and end up blown by the wind or carried by rainwater into waterways. This contributes to plastic pollution in rivers, lakes, and oceans. 


A reusable cup looks stylish and prevents single-use cups from becoming litter, protecting the environment from plastic pollution. Plus, lots of coffee shops offer discounts to those bringing a reusable cup! This way, you can be kind to your planet and your pocket. 

4. Invest in a glass water bottle

Plastic pollution wild life

Investing in a glass water bottle allows you to safely and sustainably enjoy your favourite drinks on the go. 


A glass water bottle is inert and non-toxic. On the other hand, plastic bottles can leach harmful chemicals into the water, especially when exposed to heat or sunlight. 


By using a glass water bottle, you minimize the risk of chemical contamination and ensure that you have a safe and clean drinking experience.

5. Avoid microbeads and microplastics

Microbeads are tiny plastic microparticles. They are usually smaller than 5mm in diameter and are typically found in cosmetics and personal care products such as exfoliators. A microbead ban came into effect in the UK in 2018. However, other countries have yet to follow suit.


Microbeads are made of non-biodegradable plastics like polyethylene or polypropylene. Due to their small size, microbeads easily reach oceans, rivers, and lakes through wastewater systems. They can’t effectively be filtered out during water treatment, meaning they enter aquatic ecosystems and eventually food chains!


To reduce microplastic consumption, look out for naturally derived cosmetics and skin care products, choose natural clothing fibers, and look out for natural cleaning products such as bamboo scrubbing brushes instead of plastic sponges. 

6. Follow good recycling practice

UK households recycle 4.2 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. This is pretty good, but there’s always room for improvement! The key to unlocking more recycling is to follow good recycling practices. 


Our top tips for good recycling practices include:


  • Clean and dry your recyclables. Rinsing out bottles and jars removes leftover food residue and prevents contamination. This means your plastic and paper waste can be recycled properly and won’t end up in landfill. 
  • Remove non-recyclable components. Make sure you remove any non-recyclable components from rubbish before recycling. This includes plastic lids, plastic wrap, or plastic inserts. 
  • Separate materials properly. Sort recyclable materials into the appropriate categories. Keep paper and cardboard separate from plastic, glass, and metal. Some recycling programs require separate containers for different materials. Check out your local government’s website for instructions on how to recycle properly. 
  • Flatten cardboard boxes. Flatten and fold down cardboard boxes to save space in the recycling bin. Large, unflattened boxes take up unnecessary room and hinder the collection and processing of other recyclables.

7. Purchase second hand

There has been a significant shift in recent years toward purchasing second-hand clothing, furniture, and toys. People around the world are embracing this trend, recognizing the many benefits it offers. 


Purchasing second-hand prevents items from ending up in landfill, minimizes plastic packaging through delivery services, and expands the lifespan of items. This means demand for new plastic items is reduced, and fewer items are manufactured. 

8. Participate in beach cleanups

beach cleanup

Beach cleanups involve physically collecting and removing plastic pollution from shorelines and coastal areas. 


Although it isn’t the solution, beach cleanups reduce the amount of plastic found on our coasts, streams, and rivers. By removing plastic debris from beaches, we minimize the potential harm caused to fragile marine ecosystems and the countless species that rely on them.


You can get involved with a beach cleaning near you by visiting the Marine Conservation Society website and entering your postcode. 

Beach cleans are a great, local way to reduce plastic pollution. However, for large-scale projects, waterway cleanup vessels such as the Water Witch or Versi-Cat Trash skimmers are just the tool for the job. Check out the great work Port Solent, England, is doing with their 7m Versi-Cat Trash Skimmer to keep the Marina clear of plastic! This boat was purchased in replacement of a 6m Vesi-Cat trash skimmer which had completed many years of hard labour. This upgraded replacement demonstrates Port Solent’s commitment to reducing plastic pollution and keeping their marina clear and beautiful. 

trash skimmer boat port solent uk

The Time Is Now!

We all have a part to play in reducing plastic pollution in the ocean. Not only does it make our rivers and coastal areas more beautiful, but there are countless environmental and health benefits that impact both animals and humans. 


Although it may seem like an impossible task, there are often simple solutions that allow us all to play our part in reducing ocean litter. By embracing simple yet effective practices such as carrying reusable bags, saying no to single-use straws, and investing in sustainable alternatives like glass water bottles, we can significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste we generate. 


These small changes in our daily lives ripple outward, reducing the effects of plastic pollution and creating a wave of positive transformation that extends far beyond our lifetime and will benefit future generations.


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For further information contact Jackie Caddick, Director – +44 (0)151 207 4874








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