Updated: Nov 20, 2018
Plastic pollution is a huge problem for marine wildlife.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, 80 per cent of marine pollution is generated by land-based activities and it's having a devastating effect on our oceans.
Just yesterday a sperm whale that washed up on a beach in Spain was found to have died due to nearly 30 kilograms of trash that blocked its digestive system.
And last month a diver shared video of masses of floating plastic at a popular dive spot in Bali, saying that he had "never seen anything like" it before.
The problem is complex and requires a number of solutions. But there are some surprisingly simple things that consumers can do to help cut back their plastic pollution and reduce marine debris. Here are just a few conscious choices you can make to help.
Reduce your everyday waste
Cleanaway Waste Management says the easiest step you can take to reduce your everyday waste is to eliminate single-use plastic.
That includes things like plastic bags, straws and water bottles, which are some of the most common waste collected in the environment.
Here are a few ways you can go about reducing your plastic consumption:
Say 'no' to plastic shopping bags. In fact, every state in Australia — except NSW — has now banned or promised to ban lightweight plastic bags. Woolworths and Coles have also announced plans to phase it outForgo plastic strawsBuy fewer products. For example, the Government's Your Energy Savings campaign says the same cleaner can be used on your mirrors, tiles and shower recess. Same with cosmetic, skin and hair care items — many of which end up in our waterways, and as landfillPurchase a long-life reusable drink bottle or keep cup and keep them in your bag or at work.
Try buying in bulk
Confused on how this helps?
Well, it turns out all those single-serve yoghurts, individual packs of washing powder and chocolate wrappers use up quite a bit of packaging.
By buying in bulk you're using less packaging. And it also saves you money at the checkout.
However, it's important to point out you should use your common sense with this.
Only buy in bulk if you know you are going to use the product — like toilet paper or laundry powder. There's no point buying a 1 litre tub of yoghurt if you don't eat it that often — that will just end up as food waste.
Limit your use of chemicals
Basically, what goes down our drains ends up in our waterways and in the ocean.
That includes harmful chemicals, such as phosphates, which can cause algal blooms.
Instead, Your Energy Savings recommends cutting back on the chemicals and using an organic alternative. These include:
Baking soda cleans, deodorises, softens water and is a good scouring powder for everything from silverware to sinksLemon juice is a mild bleach, deodoriser and cleaning agentWhite vinegar cuts through everything from tarnish to grease, and it's a deodoriser and mild disinfectant. It's also great for cleaning mirrors and windows. Mix half and half with water, and keep it in a labelled spray bottleWashing soda cuts grease and removes stains
And if you do need to buy specialist cleaning products, consider buying those that are plant-based and biodegradable:
Use dishwasher detergents that are free of chlorine bleach and lowest in phosphatesUse bathroom cleaners that are free of aerosol propellants and antibacterial agents
For more tips on green cleaning check out the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage website.
Reuse items or try buying second-hand
Before buying new clothes, technology or furniture, consider whether you really need it.
In many cases, you probably don't. But for those times that you do, consider getting it second hand.
Australians are the world's second largest consumers of textiles but only about 15 per cent of clothes donated to charity are resold within Australia.
The rest are sold as industrial rags, sent to landfill, or sent overseas to developing nations.
And in many cases, these clothes can take hundreds of years to break down.
For example, clothing made from polyester, which is essentially a plastic, takes up to 200 years to breakdown in landfill.
By choosing reused or recycled products, you're helping to create a market for used goods and supporting the recycling industry.
Know how to recycle
A lot of people are still confused about what they can and can't recycle.
And China's recent crackdown on the standard of waste it will import means it's more important than ever to know what can and can't be recycled.
Recently, the ABC looked at whether people could recycle pizza boxes and many were surprised to find out that "a lot of councils are saying no to pizza boxes".
And this can be a problem because the wrong item can "contaminate" a recycling bin and reduce the value of your recycling.
If there's too much contamination, you risk sending a truck full of recyclables to landfill.
Participate in a beach clean-up or do it yourself
Marine Conservation says people should, "just remember the Scab Duty maxim — see it, bin it, everyday".
It might not seem like much but every little bit counts — even making sure to throw your rubbish away in a trash can or bring a bag with you.
What else can you do:
Look out for rubbish on streets, footpaths, parking lots and storm drains — they can empty into our oceans and waterwaysYou're also encouraged to report instances of illegal dumping to your local councilGet involved with your community or participate in an organised clean-up event near you