Single use plastic is everywhere from inside your coffee cup to cotton bud sticks.

Often used for seconds before being disposed of, single use items can have long lasting impacts.

An estimated 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are used every year in the UK and each latte can leave a lasting legacy. From the energy used and carbon emission generated to make to single use items, the resources lost to landfill, litter on our streets and beaches when they are thrown away, we can all see and feel the impact of single use plastic on our planet.

Single use items that can’t be recycled, either due to contamination with food or because they are made from the wrong mix of materials, represent a huge loss of resources.

All this rubbish needs to be collected and sent to landfill or for incineration, adding to single use plastic’s environmental burden and putting extra strain on local authorities.

READ MORE: 'Shocking' failure by Scottish business to cut single-use plastic

Finding single use items disposed of in bins would be a grimy silver-lining for many local authorities and water companies. Tackling the mess created by single use items that have been flushed or littered, like wet wipes and food packaging, is time consuming and costly.

It is estimated that 40,000 disposable coffee cups are littered in Scotland each day, making them one of the most commonly littered items. Litter from single use items is not only unsightly it also threatens wildlife and adds to the plastic in our seas. Marine Conservation Society volunteers collected an average of 182.6 pieces of plastic or polystyrene for every 100m of beach in 2018 and cotton bud sticks consistently appear in the top ten litter items found on beaches.

In the UK alone it is estimated we use a staggering 1.8 billion cotton buds every year. If flushed down toilets, plastic cotton bud sticks slip through sewage filters, out into the sea and have been found piercing the intestines of turtles and in the stomachs of seabirds. Plastic is a chemical cocktail of additives as well as contaminants from the oil and gas used to make plastic. Once in the ocean plastic can adsorb toxic pollutants from the surrounding seas, adding to their chemical load.

Single use plastic can feel inescapable. At Fidra we have been working to find solutions.

Our Cotton Bud Project was one of the first successful single use plastic actions in Scotland. By highlighting the dangers of plastic cotton bud sticks and presenting alternatives we encouraged manufactures and retailers to switch from plastic to paper.

In a recent Scottish Government consultation 99.4% of people who responded backed a plastic stemmed cotton bud ban. Now we are turning our attention to takeaway packaging. Reducing, reusing and recycling all play their part.

The solutions are not always straight forward, but with commitment from companies and consumers alongside government support, alternatives can be found.

- Dr Clare Cavers is the senior projects manager of the Scottish environmental charity Fidra which has campaigned encourage industry to curb the production of plastic.

She joined Fidra from a research background, with qualifications in biological sciences, marine environmental protection and biogeography.