Indifference is no longer acceptable.
As it turns out, keep-cups, steel bottles and boxed water really are that much better – as it's been revealed that plastic bottles make up 14% of all plastic waste found in rivers.
According to a new report from charities Earthwatch Institute and Plastic Oceans UK, plastic bottles are the worst polluters of Europe’s waterways.
Plastic bags, conversely, only make up 1% of plastic pollution in freshwater rivers and streams, thanks to initiatives like the plastic bag charge, implemented in Ireland back in 2002.
Cigarette butts and food takeaway containers – ranging from crisp packets to Easter Egg wrapping – are also hazards to Europe’s waterways, making up 9% and 12% of plastic waste respectively.
Cotton-bud sticks and takeaway cups followed, at 5% and 4% respectively.
Sanitary items, including wet wipes, nappies and tampons, were also a major source, prompting campaigners to warn people not to flush wipes, sanitary towels or other single-use sanitary items down toilets.
It seems that consumers are still blissfully unaware of the damage everyday disposable items such as cotton buds and wet wipes are doing, which ultimately contributes greatly to plastic riddling our waterways.
And although most attention on the plastic scourge has been focused on oceans – most of David Attenborough's recent work revolves around their plight – about 80% of plastic rubbish flows into them from rivers.
Experts believe that tackling river clean-up at the source – both figuratively and literally – is the most effective way to kill the flow of existing rubbish into our seas. However, the most pressing matter is ultimately our reliance on throwaway plastic products.
“The products we buy every day are contributing to the problem of ocean plastic,” said Jo Ruxton, chief executive of Plastic Oceans UK.
“Our discarded plastic enters rivers from litter generated by our on-the-go lifestyle and items we flush down toilets. This throwaway approach is having much more serious consequences and the report shows really simple ways to avoid this problem and stop plastic pollution.”
Back in January, it was announced that government departments, public bodies and schools were no longer purchasing single-use plastics for use within their offices.
The move – which kicked in from 31 March – included the use of single-use plastic beverage cups, cutlery and drinking straws, except where specific public health/hygiene or safety issues arise.
Also in January, the European Commission adopted the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics.
The strategy envisages that all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted.
Some 500,000 tonnes of plastic waste from the EU end up in the sea every year.
Shop Reusable Water Bottles:
Chillys Stainless Steel Water Bottle, €30.95, Arnotts
Insulated Stainless Steel Bottle, €30, Reuzi
Origins Canteen, €34, Corkcicle
Main image by Chilly's On Instagram