The top 10 plastic littered items and how we can reduce them

21 Mar 2019 The top 10 plastic littered items and how we can reduce them

I’ve been collecting litter all over the place for a long time now and in particular on one beach. While there is a movement to ask #isthisyours and to name and shame companies for not offering alternative packaging. I thought I would show in words the reality of what comes in on your beach. Places we love are polluted by the same pointless garbage day in and day out and most of it is totally avoidable. Avoidable by the company that sells their products in it and by us by choosing alternatives or boycotting their products all together. 

This list will vary from place to place, for example I never really find bait bags in Asia. The list is not exhaustive or totally accurate, its just my personal experience.

You will note that fast food packaging is missing from this list, mostly because, single-use cups, plastic bags and straws are all heavily supplied by all of your favourite junk food drive throughs.

1. Cigarette butts – Not having ever been a smoker perhaps I am out of line here? Though as these are often the most frequently collected item surely we need to do something about them? They seem to be in this strange category of items that regular people seem ok with stubbing out in the gutter or throwing out the car window. I’d liken a cigarette “filter” (butt) to wearing a helmet and jumping in front of a train. Are they really achieving anything beyond false security while creating a lot of environmental problems?

Cigarette butt image by Take 3

2. Styrofoam – Beads from bean bags, food containers, packaging materials. Bans are best, though we can boycott foods served in this stuff and ask companies to use alternatives 
3. Chocolate wrappers – A whole block of chocolate is better value than small single-use chocolates with many options wrapped in cardboard
4. Straws – 99% of uses for straws are totally pointless, if you can think of any moments where you might actually NEED one, bring your own or visit a venue that is #oceanfriendly
5. Cigarette packet plastic covers – I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that I’d pick up a minimum of 20 of these every day on 1 single beach. How necessary are these? If someone leaves their packet of smokes out in the rain, thems the brakes, our oceans are more important than dry cigarettes and most people walk out of the store and throw the wrapper on the ground

Cigarette packet wrapper


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6. Bait bags – I first wrote to a bait company about these 20 years ago and back then they told me they were looking for alternatives. Is it that difficult? Frozen wax coated boxes or reusable containers that are branded might be solutions?
7. Balloons – Very much a pointless piece of sky littering, lots of party alternatives that can replace balloons and if you want to give kids something fun, blow bubbles, they’ll chase them for hours.

8. Plastic bottles – These would have been much higher up the list but with the introduction of bottle deposit schemes they have become less common on the beach. There is one simple rule here though, use the tap and bring your own reusable bottle When travelling try these
9. Plastic cups including coffee – Found on the beach daily including Styrofoam. Don’t buy them for parties, tell your boss to switch to doing the dishes for corporate lunches and meetings, carry your own cup for coffee, swap and go options and choose to sit down, slow down and enjoy in ceramic or glass 
10. Fishing line and tackle - Fishing line is up there with balloons and ribbon as my most hated items found on the beach. Mostly because it is almost always tangled in seaweed so I need to untangle it to get it in my bag. Not really sure what to do about this one, any suggestions?
11. Plastic bags is out here in number 11 because they are often just shreds, sections, bits and pieces 

With all of these, #isthisyours, photographing and sharing on social media, tagging the company and politicians, asking for alternatives, boycotting and importantly sharing alternatives are all ways we can stop this 20 year story from continuing to go for another 20 years.

You can also use the #fairfoodforagerapp to support businesses who have left this stuff behind and watch the #pelotonagainstplastic to be inspired by what others are doing to change the future of single-use plastic.

Paul Hellier - Founder

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