The 5 biggest beach polluters

Plastic-free July has got us thinking a lot about just how much single-use plastic clogs up our beautiful oceans. Plastic is a major contributor to ocean and beach pollution, but do you really know ‘how much’ of our plastic clogs up the ocean and beaches? Globally, 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year. Half of the plastic produced is single-use items. As a result, more than 8 million tonnes of discarded plastic ends up in our oceans every single year. Once it is there, it takes a long time to go away.

It is estimated that the average American or European person typically uses 100 kilograms of plastic every year, most of which consists of packaging. Below is a list of the major polluters of beaches and oceans, and some hints and tips on how to replace them with more eco-friendly/zero waste options to help you live a plastic free life. [1]

Plastic lids

Over 4.3 million plastic lids end up in the ocean and on beaches around the world each year. The reason so many of these make it into our oceans is that they are lightweight. This makes them easily blown or washed into rivers where it is then carried to the sea, or it may even blow directly into the sea if not safely stowed by beach users. 

Hint: Instead of getting a takeaway coffee or tea, take a reusable mug and ask a cafe to fill that up. This stops a plastic lid from ending up in the ocean or polluting a beach.

Cigarette butts

Butts from cigarettes are often thought to be biodegradable, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, it takes a single cigarette butt between 18 months to 10 years to biodegrade in the ocean, and that’s if they survive that long without a poor little fish mistaking it for breakfast. 

When they do break down in the ocean, they release the harmful toxins that have passed through the filter, such as nicotine, arsenic, and lead.

Hint: Instead of putting a cigarette out in the sand or on the pavement with your foot, you can get pocket ashtrays that put your cigarette out, plus it won’t smell!

plastic on beach

Plastic bottles

Over 1.5 million plastic bottles reach our beaches and oceans every year. These plastic bottles then break down into smaller and smaller pieces, and because it readily floats it is often mistaken for food by surface feeding animals, including fish and seabirds. 

Hint: Avoid buying bottled water or soft drinks and instead, opt for bringing your drink of choice in a stainless steel or glass bottle. You can even get collapsable ones for easy transportation.

Food wrappers

9 times out of 10, the food we buy comes in a plastic wrapper that is either difficult to recycle, or can’t be recycled at all. These plastic wrappers can easily blow away or get blown into a stream where they make their way to beaches and the ocean. 

Sadly these wrappers are easily mistaken for food by both birds and fish. These plastics are often made up of toxic chemicals, including petroleum, which may be absorbed into the body tissue as the animal tries to digest it. 

Hint: Try buying loose fruit and veg, or taking your reusable bag to the shops when buying fruit and veg. You can also buy coffee, cereal, and other things like sugar from plastic free shops simply by bringing a glass jar.


Plastic bags

Plastic bags are one of the most known polluters in the ocean, yet tens of thousands of them still end up there every year. One of the main reasons these are such a scourge to our oceans is the fact marine turtles ingest plastic bags which they mistake for jellyfish.

Hint: It sounds simple, but the best way to stop plastic bags from ending up in the ocean is to not buy one. Using a reusable tote bag is a great way to save plastic from hitting the ocean. Every time you use a tote bag instead of a plastic one, it’s one less plastic bag that needs to be manufactured. 


It can be difficult at first to know how to go plastic free, but just changing our buying habits is a great start! Every little action helps reduce CO2 emissions and reduces the amount of plastic in our oceans and beaches. 

We’ve always strived to be as sustainable as possible, that’s why all of our packaging is plastic free. Our wrappers are created from cellulose and are easily biodegradable, and our tubes are made from cardboard. These can be recycled or upcycled. We have seen many examples of how you can recycle them: e.g. plant pots, pen holders, coffee pots, money boxes, and even a piggy bank!

If you’re looking for a way to cut down on your supplement plastic consumption, we’re here to help. You can get all the vitamins and minerals you need in one carbon negative, recyclable, and biodegradable order with our complete set.