IN recent years there has been a growing awareness of the devastating impact that plastics, in particular microplastics, have on our environment.
Images showing plastic particles taken from the gut of a dead sea bird or a giant carpet of plastic stretching for kilometres across the ocean are hard to forget.
Now we are able to calculate how much microplastics - particles with a diameter less than than a millimetre - enter our bodies.
New World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-commissioned research by the University of Newcastle shows the global average of microplastic ingestion could be as high as five grams a week per person.
That is the equivalent of eating a teaspoon of plastic - or a credit card - every week.
The research collated the findings of 50 international research papers in an attempt to provide an accurate calculation of ingestion rates. It found that, based on "conservative assumptions", people are consuming about 2,000 tiny pieces of plastic each week.
Water, both bottled and tap, was the largest single source of microplastic ingestion.
While the next phase of the project will focus on gaining a better scientific understanding of how plastics impact on human health, few would argue that our health is not suffering due to the proliferation of plastics in every part of our lives.
It is unlikely that plastics or their toxic legacy will be eradicated from our planet any time soon, but significant work is being done by individuals, communities and corporations to reduce their impact.
Thousands of tonnes of plastic has been stopped from entering the environment as a result of Woolworths' decision to stop providing free plastic bags in mid-2018.
Complementing this, Aldi UK has announced it will introduce paper bags in its stores in the near future.
At a local level, former Newcastle resident Tim Silverwood founded Take-3, an initiative that encourages people to leave the beach with three pieces of plastic, in Newcastle 10 years ago.
The initiative has spread to 129 countries and is responsible for the collection of about 10 million pieces of rubbish a year.
These examples demonstrate that everyone has a role to play in helping to combat a global problem at a local level.
The war on plastic must be won not only for the future of our waterways but for our own survival on this planet.