Lots of plastic waste floating in the sea in foggy weather

Plastic waste
Let's reduce plastic in our oceans

A lot of our clothes are shedding tiny bits of plastic when we wash them.

They’re called microfibres – and they can end up in the sea. They might even be entering our food chain.

Find out more, including tips on washing and choosing your clothes.

History of plastic

In the past 100 years humans have produced a lot of plastic. The benefits of plastic are that it's cheap and strong, light and extraordinarily versatile. So it's not surprising we're using mountains of the stuff. But the waste is going to stick around for ages – with horrible effects on wildlife and the environment.

Here's where you can find the essential facts about plastic and the environment – and discover what you can do to help.

Plastic pollution

Supermarket Lidl caused outrage in early 2018 for selling peeled onions in plastic (pictured).

And it's not the only company under the spotlight. It's dawning on many of us just how wasteful our use of plastic is. Take the average plastic bag – used for just a few minutes, but lasts for many hundreds of years.

The vast majority of plastic waste doesn't get reused or recycled. It's out there lingering in the natural environment – polluting our soils and seas.

Plastic in our oceans

Sir David Attenborough's Blue Planet II hammered home the tragedy of plastic pollution in our oceans. Up to 12m tonnes of plastic ends up in the sea each year; not far off the weight of a million London buses. This includes tiny bits of plastic from cosmetics, bathroom products and tyres.

Sea creatures can get tangled up in plastic – or mistake it for food. The effects can be fatal. Harmful chemicals linked to plastic have been found in species from plankton to dolphins.

How to avoid plastic

We can easily refuse plastic straws and carrier bags. And there are some nifty alternatives to plastic like getting your veg delivered fresh in a box (pictured).

But avoiding it can still be a real headache. Businesses need to reduce unnecessary plastic waste. The government needs to make this happen.

And we can make the government act.

to help protect people and planet

Plastic facts

12 million
tonnes of plastic ends up in the sea each year.
Only 9%
of all plastic waste has ever been recycled.
700
or so marine species have been found entangled in plastic.
1 million
plastic bottles are bought worldwide every minute.
100,000
tiny bits of plastic could end up in the ocean with each shower you take, depending on the products you use.
9 billion
fewer plastic bags used in England since the 5p charge.

What is Friends of the Earth doing about plastic?

We've had some game-changing wins on waste over the years. Like bringing doorstep recycling to every UK home in 2003 – Wales is now in the top 3 recycling nations in the world.

We make a difference because people care and get involved. And now you can help us win again. This time we're out to crush plastic waste.

We're pushing the government to ban takeaway coffee cups that can't be recycled. We're calling for cuts in the unnecessary plastic that manufacturers and retailers produce. And we want a stop to the tsunami of plastic pouring into our oceans.

to help protect people and planet