Skip to content

The Big Plastic Count: throwing away billions of pieces of rubbish

  • by JW

“It’s clear from these results that the plastic waste problem is not getting any better, and that recycling is not going to solve it. New thinking around packaging choices is urgently needed.” [Dr Cressida Bowyer, Revolution Plastics Institute, the University of Portsmouth]


Greenpeace launched The Big Plastic Count last month – and the results are now in:

TOGETHER, WE COUNTED A LOT OF PLASTIC One in every 300 people across the UK took part in The Big Plastic Count. That’s hundreds of thousands of people who counted their plastic waste. The evidence is beyond doubt: the only way to tackle household plastic waste is to cut it at the source. That means reducing the amount we’re making from the get go.

It is suggesting several ways forward – but not more recycling.

The Let’s Recycle organisation reports that the UK discards 90 billion plastic pieces annually – with a rundown of the ‘plan of action’ from Greenpeace:

In response to the figures from The Big Plastic Count, Greenpeace UK and Everyday Plastic have called on the government to “show leadership” at the upcoming Global Plastics Treaty negotiations, pushing for a global target to cut plastic production by at least 70% by 2040.

They have also asked for all plastic waste exports to be banned by 2027, and approvals for waste incineration facilities to end. The two organisations also urge the government to “immediately implement” an all in Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) requirements.

“It’s clear from these results that the plastic waste problem is not getting any better, and that recycling is not going to solve it. New thinking around packaging choices, backed up by legislation, is urgently needed. Implementation of reuse and refill systems for instance could transform the plastics economy from a linear to a more circular model and significantly reduce plastic production and plastic pollution,” said Dr Cressida Bowyer, deputy director of the Revolution Plastics Institute at the University of Portsmouth.

But it’s not just the industry taking an interest – with the likes of the Mail reporting on the shocking extent of Britain’s plastic crisis: 1.7 BILLION pieces of rubbish are thrown away by UK households every week, study reveals:

Since 2022, when Greenpeace A recent Greenpeace study found that 74 per cent of Britons polled supported reducing the UK’s plastic use. However, the amount of plastic generated this year is almost the same as in 2022 – suggesting that very little real progress has been made. Ms Burnley said: ‘Our national survey shows tidal waves of plastic packaging leaving homes every week. The problem is huge, and the challenge of fixing it can feel overwhelming.’

Snack packaging was the most commonly thrown-out piece of rubbish, with the participants counting 699,932 pieces in just seven days. This was closely followed by plastic fruit and veg packaging with 697,085 pieces being counted. In total, 81 per cent of all the rubbish thrown out by UK households was packaging for food and drink. The study also found that only a very small part of the UK’s plastic waste is recycled in the UK.