The benefits of plastic are undeniable. The material is cheap, lightweight and easy to make. These qualities have led to a boom in the production of plastic over the past century. This trend will continue as global plastic production skyrockets over the next 10 to 15 years. We are already unable to cope with the amount of plastic waste we generate. Only a tiny fraction is recycled. About 13 million tonnes of plastic leak into our oceans every year, harming biodiversity, economies and, potentially, our own health. The world urgently needs to rethink the way we manufacture, use and manage plastic. This paper sets out the latest thinking on how we can achieve this. It looks at what governments, businesses and individuals can do to check the runaway production and consumption of plastic. It focuses particular attention on the burgeoning use of unnecessary plastics – the single-use items that make up a large amount of the waste we generate. The paper begins with an overview of the crisis. It goes on to explore the potential of alternative materials and sheds light on the effectiveness of current government legislation to cut down on single-use plastics. Ultimately, tackling one of the biggest environmental scourges of our time will require governments to regulate, businesses to innovate and individuals to act. This paper outlines the possible paths to a world free of plastic pollution.