Brits bin over 1.8 billion pieces of plastic a week survey finds

UK households are throwing away an estimated 1.85 billion pieces of plastic a week, making up 96.57 billion pieces a year, according to the results of a survey analysing plastic usage.

The public was asked to count how much and the type of plastic they threw away as part of the Big Plastic Count, held across a week in May and organized by Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic.

250,000 people took part and counted 6,473,813 pieces of plastic within a week, meaning on average each household threw away 66 pieces of plastic packaging a week, or 3,432 pieces a year.

The research estimates that only 12% of this plastic will be recycled at reprocessing facilities in the UK, with 46% likely to be incinerated and 25% set to be buried in a landfill.

Campaigners are now calling for the single-use plastic to be eliminated within 15 years ad plastic waste exports to be banned, as currently 17% of the UK’s plastic waste is shipped overseas.

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Daniel Webb, the Founder and Director of Everyday Plastic, said: ‘These new figures lay bare the responsibility of the government, big brands and supermarkets to tackle this crisis, showing just how unavoidable plastic waste is for the UK public and why recycling is only part of the solution.

‘The government is currently deciding on legally binding waste reduction targets as part of the Environment Act, but a specific plastic waste reduction target hasn’t been proposed. That’s simply not good enough. We need to reduce single-use plastic packaging by 50% by 2025 and urgently transition to reusable packaging which caters to everyone’s needs.’

Fruit and vegetable packaging were the most common items to be counted, making up 1.02 pieces of plastic thrown away by participants, followed by snack bags, packets and wrappers at 1.01 million pieces.

The report highlighted how it can be difficult for consumers to avoid plastic packaging even If they wanted to and showed how recycling isn’t solving the crisis.

Greenpeace UK’s plastic campaigner, Chris Thorne, said: ‘Pretending we can sort this with recycling is just industry green-wash. We’re creating a hundred billion bits of waste plastic a year, and recycling is hardly making a dent.’

The government banned the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds on 2020, while a 2015 levy on single-use plastic bags has led to a 95% reduction in usage.

But authors of the report said a wider approach is needed to tackle the scale of the plastic crisis, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson even expressing these sentiments in 2021.

Speaking to a group of school children he said recycling plastic ‘doesn’t begin to address the problem’ and acknowledged the need to ‘cut down’.

Plastic food packaging could soon be replaced, as scientists have created a biodegradable, plant-based coating which guards food from microbes, rot and damage.

Photo by Marc Newberry


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