Take this one step towards cutting down on marine pollution – it's simple and easy to achieve. Words: Madeleine Barber. Photographs: City to Sea

Here at coast we love the sea, and if you’re reading our content it’s likely you do too. It’s not news that our ocean and its marine life is threatened by increasing levels of plastic waste, and the latest campaign to reduce this threat is not just simple, but easily achievable too.

It’s estimated that 60 per cent of sewage-related plastic pollution in the UK comes from our cotton buds. The plastic stems, once flushed, slip through our treatment process and lead to fatal injuries to fish, seabirds and marine mammals, and the discovery of microplastics in the food we eat. Paper stems, however, swell on contact with water so are less likely to penetrate treatment systems and biodegrade quickly, so are non-harmful to marine life. Founded by broadcaster Natalie Fee, plastic pollution campaign group City to Sea have recently launched a campaign called ‘Switch the Stick’. It encourages major retailers to opt for paper cotton bud stems, which Johnson and Johnson, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and Co-op Food have already put into practice. As Natalie says, 'Like many other beach-lovers here in the UK, I've had enough of picking hundreds of them up each time I go for a walk along the river or beach!' And, we couldn't agree more.

Sign the petition to ask UK retailers to stop making plastic cotton buds by the end of 2017 here: switchthestick.org. Limit your purchases to products with paper stems and share the video below to help spread the word. It's incredibly simple, Natalie says: 'Unlike many 'problem plastics' like drinks bottles and food packaging, cotton buds can easily be made out of paper. It's a simple, affordable solution for us as shoppers and for the manufacturers.'

For more of our articles about marine conservation, click here or pick up a copy of the magazine.

For more of our articles about marine conservation, click here or pick up a copy of the magazine.