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The Big Plastic Count 2024

UK’s largest household plastic waste survey returns following government inaction
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Chris Packham CBE, Wildlife expert, TV Presenter, Author and Conservationist, joins the

Main image: Chris Packham, © Isabelle Povey / Greenpeace

From Devon to Dundee, across all 650 parliamentary constituencies, more than 30,000 participants are ready to count their plastic waste as registration opens for The Big Plastic Count, including 3,800 school classes and 2,300 teachers.

The return of the UK’s largest survey into household plastic waste is set to take place 11-17 March 2024.

A tipping point for action?

For the national plastic-counting campaign, returning for its second time, Greenpeace UK and the non-profit organisation Everyday Plastic are inviting individuals, households, schools, community groups and businesses to take part in the largest plastic investigation of its kind.

University of Portsmouth, Tearfund, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and Surfers Against Sewage are among the organisations supporting the campaign.

‘The Big Plastic Count 2024 could be the tipping point for UK government action on plastic. The first Count saw the British public spend a combined 2,500 days, or seven years, counting our plastic rubbish to prove we’re drowning in plastic and can’t simply recycle our way out of the problem.

‘However, the UK government still hasn’t set a legally binding plastic reduction target.

‘Now we’re back to gather even more proof so that UK politicians have no excuse not to act on plastic waste at home and overseas.

‘The Big Plastic Count 2024 is special because ministers can take our evidence to important UN Global Plastics Treaty talks in order to push for a new binding international agreement to reduce plastic production by at least 75% by 2040. Plastic waste is a global problem, and together, we can make sure it is tackled globally.’

Project lead, The Big Plastic Count, Greenpeace UK

Act on plastics

Participant statistics from The Big Plastic Count will generate unique data on how much plastic packaging waste leaves UK homes.

Campaigners will use the results to confront UK ministers with the scale of the plastic waste problem and push them to lead the way at the next round of negotiations for the Global Plastics Treaty set to be held in Ottawa, Canada, from April 23 to April 29.

The treaty could lead to a legally binding global agreement on plastic pollution – but it will only deliver the kind of ambitious action needed if countries like the UK push for agreement to reduce plastic production by at least 75% by 2040 and speed up the introduction of innovative reuse and refill models.

‘The plastic crisis hasn’t gone away but our government is still tinkering at the edges of meaningful action. Recycling systems can’t cope with the volume of plastic packaging we use, so the government and companies must act to turn off the tap at the source.

‘Since Blue Planet II in 2018, the public has been clamouring for action on plastic pollution and, six years later, the government has run out of excuses.

‘In this election year we urge you to join us for the return of The Big Plastic Count. We need UK ministers to stand up and push for an ambitious Global Plastics Treaty that radically reduces plastic production and accelerates national reuse and refill systems.’

Head of Plastics, Greenpeace UK

UK plastic: the figures

Almost a quarter of a million people participated in The Big Plastic Count in 2022.

The campaign revealed that UK households throw nearly two billion pieces of plastic packaging away weekly.

Just 12% is recycled in the UK, with the rest being burned, shipped abroad or left in landfill. 

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

‘Having counted my plastic waste for an entire year, I know exactly how powerful this investigation can be in helping to understand the true extent of the plastic problem.

‘Nearly 250,000 people took part in The Big Plastic Count in 2022, coming together to show that urgent change is not just what we need, but what we want.

‘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.’

Founder and director, Everyday Plastic

Plastics policy

Although the previous campaign galvanised the British public to demand action on plastic, national policy hasn’t progressed at the speed required.

After six years of promises, the government has banned a few items like plastic straws, plates, trays, cutlery and balloon sticks while delaying more systemic measures like a deposit return scheme and completely failing to bring in binding plastic reduction targets.

Banning a small number of individual plastic items will not lead to a meaningful reduction in single-use plastic overall.

The Big Plastic Count has demonstrated that plastic food packaging is the biggest contributor to plastic waste and needs addressing most urgently.

‘Every thirty seconds, someone dies from a disease linked to plastic pollution and rubbish. For people living in poverty, there is no time to waste. The Big Plastic Count is a great opportunity for thousands of us in the UK to come together and show we want this plastics crisis solved. It’s a powerful reminder to the Government that people across the UK and worldwide are getting on with tackling plastic pollution. We need global politicians ensuring we get a strong Global Plastics Treaty agreed upon this year.’

Senior economist, Tearfund

A Global Plastics Treaty

Thousands of people shared their results from The Big Plastic Count 2022 with MPs and called for achievable policies to tackle the plastic waste crisis.

Greenpeace is now calling on the government to reduce plastic production by at least 75% by 2040 and speed up the introduction of innovative reuse and refill models.

The charity also wants to see a complete ban on all plastic waste exports by 2027 at the latest. 

It’s calling for the immediate implementation of an all-in Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) requirements for recycling and reuse, and an end to approvals for new incineration facilities.

An ambitious new UN Global Plastics Treaty focused on fundamentally reducing plastic production and use at source has the potential to provide an indispensable international framework to drive more domestic policy action by countries across the world – such as the policies mentioned above.

‘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. I’ve signed up for The Big Plastic Count. Will you sign up, too?’

Wildlife TV presenter & conservationist

Everyday Plastic founder Daniel Webb collected every piece of his plastic waste for a whole year and developed a unique methodology alongside a scientific researcher to calculate his plastic footprint.

Now, The Big Plastic Count offers the public the same chance to discover what happens to their plastic waste once they throw it away.
Registration is now open to sign up for The Big Plastic Count 2024. Click here to join the campaign.

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