IELTS Model Essay: Plastic

This IELTS Writing Task 2 sample essay is a problems-solutions essay on the topic of plastic pollution from Cambridge IELTS 16. This lesson in includes my essay plan, my example essay, a vocabulary list and a fill-in-the-blanks activity. So let’s get started!

Here is the task:

Plastic bags, plastic bottles and plastic packaging are bad for the environment.

What damage does plastic do to the environment?

What can be done by governments and individuals to solve this problem?

Cambridge General Training 16 (Test 1)

This is a topic that has been on the news a lot over the last few years, especially since Sir David Attenborough’s BBC documentary, BBC Planet II.

If you’re struggling to generate ideas for this essay topic, read Greenpeace’s page about plastic pollution.

My Plan

What Damage? (Problem)

Plastic in water supply

  • When plastic degrades, tiny particles get washed into water supply. These are toxic, so can cause disease, e.g. cancer

Animals try to eat plastic

  • Animals mistake them for food. Causes problems
  • Some animals may choke on plastic bags and die


Make plastic packaging more expensive.

  • Extra cost of plastic will encourage people to re-use plastic or avoid it altogether
  • Supermarkets can charge for using plastic bags, so people will bring own bags.

Improve water supply

  • Many people buy drinking water in plastic bottles because local water supply is poor (bacteria, heavy metals, e.g. Thailand, Turkey)

Here is my visual plan for this essay. Click on the image to view it full-size.

Plastics Essay Plan

Get Your Own IELTS Essay Planning Templates


My Essay

Plastic use has increased dramatically over the last 50 years, replacing more traditional packaging such as glass bottles, tins and paper bags. Unfortunately, this has also resulted in a huge amount of plastic being discarded, and this has caused a number of environmental problems.

One of the main problems – one that has only recently been discovered – is that when plastic degrades, it releases tiny particles which eventually get washed into the water supply. These particles can be toxic if ingested in large enough quantities, and may even be carcinogenic. Another problem is that animals may mistake plastic items for food. For example, seagulls often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, and try to eat them, causing them to choke and die. Many larger aquatic animals have been found washed up on beaches with their digestive systems full of plastic material.

So what can be done about this? One of the obvious solutions is to make plastic packaging more expensive in order to encourage people to re-use plastic or avoid it altogether. Supermarkets in many countries have started to charge consumers for plastic bags and this has proved to be successful, with many people bringing their own reusable shopping bags. Another solution might be to improve local water supply. In many developing countries, tap water cannot be drunk because it contains bacteria or heavy metals, so people instead buy bottled water. However, this creates a colossal amount of plastic waste since these bottles are single-use. Helping countries like Thailand or Turkey modernise their domestic water supply infrastructure would therefore lead to a large reduction in the use of plastic bottles.

To summarise, plastic packaging has harmful effects both on drinking water and for animals, but making it more expensive and improving access to drinkable water in the developing world can go a long way to reducing these problems.

(308 words)

Plastic Pollution in the Ocean


Here is some of the language in my essay that would ensure a high band score. Note that most of this language are phrases and collocations, not single words. Examiners are looking at your ability to use “lexical items” (i.e. groups of words) at Band 7 and above.

  • glass bottles, tins and paper bags
  • a huge amount of plastic being discarded
  • a number of environmental problems
  • has only recently been discovered
  • plastic degrades
  • releases tiny particles
  • washed into the water supply
  • toxic
  • ingested
  • carcinogenic
  • mistake…for
  • choke
  • aquatic animals
  • washed up on beaches
  • re-use plastic
  • reusable shopping bags
  • local water supply
  • heavy metals
  • colossal amount of
  • single-use
  • domestic water supply infrastructure


Can you re-create my essay? Without looking at the essay again, fill in the missing spaces with the correct words from my essay above. Good luck! (The activity works best on a desktop, laptop or tablet computer).

Paragraph 1

Paragraph 2

Paragraph 3

Paragraph 4

About the author

Charlie is a former IELTS Examiner with 25 years' teaching experience all over the world. His courses, for both English language learners and teachers, have been taken by over 100,000 students in over 160 countries around the world.

3 thoughts on “IELTS Model Essay: Plastic”

  1. You are a brilliant teacher 😊

  2. Thank you, very useful.

Comments are closed.