Laurel Spooner, Climate change campaigner, explains why we need to take action on plastic pollution.

I worry about our “plastic profiles” which cause environmental pollution and contribute to global warming.

This is because 90 per cent of plastic is derived from fossil fuels, plastic production itself is energy intense and its disposal is such a messy business that we are told the world’s oceans will contain a greater weight of plastic than fish by 2020.

Actually I was not surprised to see this challenged by scientists who said the estimate for the plastic was reasonable, but that no-one can say how many fish there are in the sea.

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But islands of floating plastic, the one between California and Hawaii approximately the same size as Texas illustrate the scale of the problem.

Worldwide plastic production increased 200 fold in the 65 years from 1950 to 2015.

I have not checked the maths, but it is claimed that the 381 million tonnes produced annually is approximately one third of the estimated mass of the world’s entire population!

Globally roughly 80 per cent of all plastic goes to landfill, 12 per cent is incinerated and 8 per cent is recycled.

Recycling looks like the best option, but it is also energy intensive.

Making far less plastic is the fundamental answer, but what else would help?

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More plastic could be produced from bio-degradable plant sources, non-recyclable plastic could be phased out or burnt cleanly to generate electricity, recyclable plastic could be collected and recycled more efficiently, but again best of all each of us should shrink our plastic profile and start now.

Here are some simple ways to try, just doing one will make a difference:

  • Buy yourself a reusable coffee cup and get 25p off a cup in most cafés
  • Reuse your plastic disposable water bottle and have it refilled for free in cafés or at public drinking fountains
  • Consider reinstating the milkman with glass milk bottles
  • Give up clingfilm and replace it with bees wax wraps - google (You will play your part in reducing the estimated non-recyclable 745,000 miles of clingfilm and shrink wrap used in the UK every year. That is more than enough to wrap the world up 30 times round the equator!)
  • Buy unpackaged food whenever you can
  • Choose natural fibre clothing over synthetic fibres
  • If something plastic has a paper or wooden equivalent, try to choose it.

Good luck, and now for one of my favourite quotes from Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Jill Bruce, Woman’s Institute climate change ambassaor, tells us more about the reasons our attitude on plastic must change. 

Of course we want to throw away less plastic because we have seen the terrible pictures of dead seabirds and seals with stomachs full of plastic waste, or discarded frisbees stuck round their necks.

But, as Laurel says, another reason to try to use less plastic is because everything that is made uses electricity in its manufacturing process, and although recycling is much better than dumping waste, recycling uses energy too. The best option is to buy less in the first place if you can.

We can use tupperware-style boxes or reusable food covers, like mini shower caps, sold by Lakeland.

You can avoid buying pre-packed fruit and veg by buying your food at a market stall or taking your own bags to the supermarket.

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In the Fifties, my mum used shopping bags that she kept for years, and a string bag for buying potatoes and other vegetables.

When you buy loose fruit and veg, you can pick exactly what you want and cut food waste too.

Some branches of Tesco sell grapes in zip--up plastic bags instead of plastic boxes, and those bags can be reused many times for fruit and veg.

If you do use the free plastic bags supplied then you could reuse them rather than throwing them away after one use.

Most fruit and veg don’t need to be put in separate bags at all, they are absolutely fine loose in the trolley and on the conveyor belt, and will sit together happily in your shopping bag till you get them home.

What about soap and shampoo? We all used to use solid soap bars, I’ve gone back to using them again.

Much less packaging, longer lasting and better for the planet.

You can buy solid shampoo and conditioner bars too. Lush sells them and you can find them online from other companies too.

If you want to stay with liquid, take your old containers to be refilled.

Wivenhoe Repair Reuse Recycle now has a shop open on Saturdays at 15 Queen Street, Colchester.

Chris, the owner, sells refillable shampoo and conditioner, environmentally friendly laundry liquid, fabric conditioner, multi surface cleaner and washing up liquid.

They also stock refillable dry foods: Oats, muesli, walnuts, almonds, lentils, kidney beans, pasta, Basmati rice, and hopefully more to come.

With cosmetics, hand cream, etc you can get every bit out of the tube if, when you think it’s empty, you cut the tube in half across the middle with scissors.

There’s probably at least another week’s supply in there that you couldn’t squeeze out.

At least then you’re delaying buying more plastic, the old tube is easier to wash ready for recycling, and you’re saving money again!

It’s probably not possible to completely cut plastic out of your life, but it’s easy to cut down on some of the obviously unnecessary bits.

I’m now down to less than one bag of plastic waste a fortnight but I’m trying to cut that down further.

Radio 4 interviewed someone who had tried for a year to completely stop using plastic. At the end of a year, she had just three bags of plastic waste to recycle. That’s an impressive target!