Despite our best efforts to clear up the plastic waste which has polluted the oceans, the responsibility to ensure we fully change our relationship with single-use items may now fall to the next generation.
But the future is in safe hands if nine-year-old Ella McEwan and her sister Caitlin, seven, are anything to go by.
After learning at school how rubbish is endangering sea life, the eco-aware pair from Southampton set up an online petition for fast-food giants to stop putting plastic toys in children’s meal boxes.
Inspired to act after a family trip to Burger King, their campaign has already attracted 167,475 signatures – and counting.
The girls said: “We like to go to eat at Burger King and McDonald’s but children only play with the plastic toys they give us for a few minutes before they get thrown away and harm animals and pollute the sea.”
Staggeringly, McDonald’s is the largest toy distributor in the world, handing out more than 1.4 billion a year in a tsunami of single-use plastic.
On tonight’s War on Plastic on BBC One – hosted by Anita Rani – the problem is laid bare showing millions of toys – many unopened from fast-food meals and magazines, as well as Kinder Surprise eggs, all adding to our mountain of plastic waste.
A new advert has also popped up on our TV screens to promote Cadbury Freddo Treasures. But this “treat” is more plastic waste than chocolate – a purple plastic treasure chest and plastic toy versus a handful of chocolate buttons.
Yes, in theory these toys can be recycled – as McDonald’s states on its website – but it is rarely economically viable to do so thanks to the mixture of plastics they are made from, meaning most still end up in landfill or being incinerated.
And the thing is, the kids don’t actually want them either.
“We want anything they give to us to be sustainable so we can protect the planet for us and future generations,” Ella and Caitlin added.
The solution to this problem lies with the producers taking more responsibility for this mess.
Help the girls out by signing their petition here.