According to a report published by Earthwatch Europe and Plastic Oceans UK, plastic bottles are now the most common form of pollutant in European waterways.
Making up 14% of all plastic pollutants, the report suggests that consumers should be more aware of what they can do to prevent polluting waterways, and offered a range of suggestions, including using alternatives and properly disposing of bottles.
The report, which also contains a study, found that the average person in the UK uses 150 plastic bottles every year, resulting in 5.5 billion plastic bottles being sent to landfill; producing 233,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.
One of the solutions suggested is the much-lauded deposit return scheme, which has already made progress in Scotland.
Another solution is to use a home carbonation product instead of buying sparkling water or ready-made fizzy drinks.
The study also found that 65% of people would be more likely use a reusable water bottle it tap water refills were freely available.
Jo Ruxton, chief executive of Plastic Oceans, said: “Our discarded plastic enters rivers from litter generated by our on-the-go lifestyle and items we flush down toilets.”
He continued: “This throwaway approach is having much more serious consequences and the report shows really simple ways to avoid this problem and stop plastic pollution.”
Experts believe that up to 80% of plastic that flows into oceans comes from rivers, and experts believe that by cleaning up rivers, it is possible to stem the flow of rubbish into the seas.
While bottles were found to make up 14% of plastic litter within rivers, food wrappers were also abundant at 12%, closely followed by cigarette butts (9%), takeaway containers (6%), and cotton bud sticks (5%).
Last year the EU parliament approved plans to published single-use plastics by 2021, although the UK government is still unsure how to implement the plans.
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