UK

Households urged to count plastic waste as part of week-long national campaign

Individuals, families, schools, community groups and businesses across the UK will take part in the Big Plastic Count.

Dove Plastic Waste at Semarang Landfill in Indonesia (Greenpeace)
Dove Plastic Waste at Semarang Landfill in Indonesia Dove Plastic Waste at Semarang Landfill in Indonesia (Greenpeace) (Tri Wahyu Susanto/© Tri Wahyu Susanto / Greenpeac)

British households are being urged to count the plastic packaging they throw away over a week as part of a nationwide campaign to tackle waste.

The Big Plastic Count, which is run by Greenpeace and non-profit organisation Everyday Plastic, will take place across the UK next week for the second time after its inaugural survey in 2022.

The campaign aims to highlight the amount of plastic waste coming out of UK households and to put pressure on authorities and businesses to fix the issue.

Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic said more than 80,000 participants, including 10,000 schools and 33 MPs, have already signed up for the 2024 survey.

But they are calling for more individuals, families, schools, community groups and businesses to join the waste count from March 11 to 17.

Participants need to sign up by March 11 to receive all the material needed to help them take part.

The survey involves people recording different types of items that are thrown away and entering the information into the campaign website.

The data will contribute to a national picture of how much plastic packaging is being binned and how much of it is recycled, and will also give participants a chance to find out what is happening to their rubbish.

Riverside trash accumulated at the shores connected to Manila bay. (Greenpeace)
Riverside trash accumulated at the shores connected to Manila bay. (Greenpeace) Riverside trash accumulated at the shores connected to Manila bay. (Greenpeace) (Jilson Tiu/© Jilson Tiu / Greenpeace)

The results will be published on April 17.

Almost 250,000 participants took part in the first Big Plastic Count in 2022, which found that UK households throw away nearly two billion pieces of plastic packaging every week.

Just 12% is recycled in the UK with the rest being burned, shipped abroad or put in landfills, the survey found.

Meanwhile, 83% of the plastic recorded was from food and drink packaging waste, the most common item being fruit and vegetable packaging, it showed.

Organisers said the survey is particularly vital in 2024 as the final year of global talks for a United Nations global plastics treaty.

Waste dump at Karahan Kuyumcular, a village in the district of Seyhan, Adana Province in Turkey. (Greenpeace)
Big Plastic Count Greepeace plastics Waste dump at Karahan Kuyumcular, a village in the district of Seyhan, Adana Province in Turkey. (Greenpeace) (Caner GUEVERA/© Caner GUEVERA / Greenpeace)

Rudy Schulkind, political campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said they will use the data gathered during the survey “to confront ministers with the scale of the plastic problem and push them to lead the way with high ambition at the next round of talks for a Global Plastics Treaty”.

It comes after reports last week that the Government’s flagship recycling initiative, the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), could be delayed again from the end of 2025 until 2028.

Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic are now calling on the Government to immediately implement an all-in DRS as well as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) requirements, which put the onus on packaging producers to pay the full net costs of managing and recycling the waste arising from their products.

The campaign groups are also calling for ministers to reduce plastic production by at least 75% by 2040, to completely ban all plastic waste exports by 2027 at the latest and to end approvals for new incinerator facilities.

Broadcaster and naturalist Chris Packham, who is supporting the campaign, said: “The natural world can’t cope with all our plastic rubbish. We’ve been calling for action on plastic for years, but the Government hasn’t listened.

“That’s why this year, The Big Plastic Count is gathering even more evidence to push for plastic action in the UK and also globally, in a new UN Global Plastics Treaty focused on reducing plastic production.”

Laura Burley, project lead of the Big Plastic Count at Greenpeace, said: “Counting your plastic is as easy as 1, 2, 3. It only takes about five minutes a day.

“The UK Government still hasn’t set a legally binding plastic reduction target so help us to gather the proof we need so UK politicians have no excuse not to act on plastic waste at home and overseas.”

The count was first launched after Everyday Plastic founder and director Daniel Webb collected every piece of his plastic waste for a year and, with the help of a scientific researcher, developed a methodology to calculate his personal plastic footprint.

He said: “I know exactly how powerful this investigation can be in helping to understand the true extent of the plastic problem.

“The Big Plastic Count is a simple yet impactful way to discover your household plastic footprint whilst contributing vital evidence to pressure our Government to lead the way at the Global Plastics Treaty talks.”

A Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson said: “We are pushing ahead with our programme of reforms to reduce waste and improve our use of resources as part of our goal of eliminating avoidable waste by 2050.

“It’s why we have taken billions of plastic bags out of circulation, banned many single-use plastics and are rolling out simpler recycling so that no matter where you live in England, you will be able to recycle the same materials.

“It’s essential that we work closely with industry to make sure these reforms are a success. We are continuing to engage with businesses closely as we proceed with introducing the deposit return scheme.”

Registration has opened for the survey, and people can sign up for it here: https://thebigplasticcount.com/sign-up.