Where Does Most Plastic Pollution Come From?

From tiny microplastics to huge pieces of discarded fishing gear, plastic pollution is a serious issue and it affects us all. It’s choking our seas, littering the land, and polluting our freshwater systems and soil.

Globally, around 300 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced each year and if that wasn’t bad enough, only a measly 5% of it gets recycled properly. As for the rest, 40% ends up in landfills, while the other 55% ends up as plastic pollution and most of that goes in our oceans.

Man collecting plastic bottles in a bag

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has projected that at the current rate of pollution, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

All this goes to show that we need to do what we can as individuals to help stymie this flow of plastic waste. With that in mind, today we’ll be looking at some of the issues surrounding plastic and what we can do to help reduce our impact.

What is the main cause of plastic pollution?

Plastic has been mass-produced since around the 1950s, with production increasing every year to meet the high demand.

There’s no denying that plastic is a convenient material. It’s durable, waterproof, flexible, affordable to produce, and available in many different forms. But the convenience of the material has come at a huge cost to our environment.

There is no escaping plastic pollution on planet earth. Plastic waste has found its way to the furthest corners of our oceans and the most remote parts of our land.

All plastic pollution is damaging to our environment, but two types, in particular, are causing a huge proportion of the problem, these are:

Single-use plastics – According to UNEP, around half of all plastic produced is designed to be used just once and then thrown away, this includes drink bottles, food packaging, plastic straws, plastic bags, and beauty product bottles.

Discarded fishing gear – According to Greenpeace, over 640,000 tonnes of discarded fishing nets, lines, and traps are dumped in our oceans each year, making up over 10% of the ocean’s plastic pollution.

Those who wish to help with the war against plastic should explore ways to reduce both the quantity of single-use plastic waste they produce and the amount of fish and seafood they eat. We’d recommend only buying fish that has been caught using sustainable processes and practices.

Which plastics are the major contributors to plastic pollution?

Most people use single-use plastic multiple times every day. Many of the products that we use in our homes and during our day-to-day lives are packaged in single-use plastic.

The primary types of plastic used to make single-use plastic packaging and products are:

  • PET plastic (Polyetphylene terephthalate)

Drink bottles

  • HDPE plastic (High-density polyethylene)

Shampoo and conditioner bottles, milk bottles, and cleaning product bottles.

  • LDPE plastic (Low-density polyethylene)

Plastic carrier bags, balloons, and food packaging film.

  • PP Plastic (Polypropylene)

Bottle caps, microwave dishes, and crisp packets.

  • PS Plastic (Polystyrene)

Plastic cutlery, plates, and cups.

Why is plastic pollution a problem?

Plastic waste is found on land and in the sea where wildlife can easily become tangled or stuck in it.

Plastic is also a toxic material, and eating it can cause all kinds of health problems for wildlife, often resulting in death, reduced population sizes, and an upset to our delicate ecosystem.

Plastic does not biodegrade, instead, it is very slowly broken down into microplastics. Microplastics then enter and disrupt our ecosystem. Whilst some animals may try to eat larger pieces of plastic waste, many others are ingesting microplastics that are present in our oceans and freshwater sources.

When humans then eat the fish or animals that have consumed microplastics, they too are putting plastic into their bodies and studies have linked ingestion of plastic to a variety of serious health conditions including cardiovascular disease and cancer.


Waste impacting ocean wildlife


It’s not just plastic waste that is a huge problem for our planet, so is the process of producing plastic in the first place. 99% of plastics are made from non-renewable resources including coal, natural gas, and oil. Extracting these resources produces greenhouse gasses which contribute to climate change.

The biggest problem with plastic is that it never disappears. The more plastic we create, the more plastic there is in the environment. Plastic can take centuries to break down, and even then it doesn’t decompose and disappear, it just turns into smaller pieces.

How can we reduce plastic pollution?

The rate at which plastic is being produced accelerates every year, it’s time to slow this down and embrace eco-friendly alternatives to plastic to help save our planet from irreversible damage.

By making environmentally conscious buying decisions and only buying from reputable, trusted, eco-friendly businesses, consumers put pressure on businesses to adopt more sustainable practices.

If you want to help tackle plastic pollution, you can begin by making small changes and swaps at home to reduce the amount of plastic waste your household produces, particularly single-use plastic waste.

Some ways you can achieve this include:

  • Avoid drinks in plastic bottles, instead, invest in a reusable drink bottle to keep refilling.
  • Carry a couple of reusable shopping bags with you.
  • Say no to plastic straws, if you like drinking from a straw, carry your own reusable one with you.
  • Shop at zero-waste refill shops for store cupboard essentials.
  • Invest in reusable cleaning wipes and sponges.
  • Invest in reusable makeup pads and wipes.
  • If you have kids, use reusable wipes and cloth nappies.
  • Swap plastic toothbrushes for bamboo toothbrushes.
  • Swap cling film for beeswax wraps.
  • Where possible, avoid buying food that is packaged in plastic.
  • Shop for beauty and cleaning products that are packaged in bottles that are recyclable and made using recycled materials.
  • Invest in trusted eco-friendly brands that share your values.

Here at Nereus London, we are a plastic-free, eco-friendly brand. That means that we don’t use plastic in any of our products, their packaging, or our manufacturing, logistics, or delivery processes.

Nereus London gift set


Our haircare and skincare products are packaged in plastic-free, recyclable bottles and we are also partnered with Plastic Bank, to help tackle existing plastic pollution in our seas. For every bottle of product that we sell, Plastic Bank will recover 1kg of ocean-bound plastic and process and recycle it safely.