The Big Plastic Count

UK’s largest ever plastic waste survey to shed light on broken recycling system

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 29 March 2022

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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Main image: Chris Packham, © Greenpeace

Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic are inviting homes across the UK to take part in The Big Plastic Count to help uncover the truth about what happens to our plastic waste and force the government to fix it.

Today (29 March) registration has opened for The Big Plastic Count – the UK’s largest-ever investigation into household plastic waste – taking place 16-22 May 2022.

The survey is supported by naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham and actor Bonnie Wright. 

A national plastics picture

The launch of The Big Plastic Count comes as new polling from YouGov, commissioned by Greenpeace UK, shows how more than four in five people (81%) want the UK government to introduce targets to reduce plastic waste.

The Big Plastic Count – a collaboration between Greenpeace UK and non-profit organisation Everyday Plastic – encourages individuals, households, schools, community groups and businesses across the UK to count their plastic packaging waste, record the different types they throw away and enter their results into the campaign website. 

The data each participant generates will contribute to an overall national picture, filling a crucial evidence gap on exactly how much plastic packaging waste is leaving UK homes.

The results will demonstrate the scale of the plastic waste problem and pressure the government and supermarkets to tackle the root cause of the plastic crisis.

Calculating your plastics footprint

Daniel Webb, Everyday Plastic founder, collected every piece of his plastic waste for a year. With a scientific researcher, he developed a unique methodology to calculate his personal plastics 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.

The unique methodology provides participants with their plastic footprint – an in-depth insight into what they’re throwing away and what happens to it – and tells them how much of their plastic waste will be recycled, landfilled, incinerated or exported.

‘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. The Big Plastic Count is a simple yet impactful way to discover your household plastic footprint, whilst contributing vital evidence to push the government for long overdue change.’

DANIEL WEBB
Everyday Plastic founder and director

UK’s plastic waste

Greenpeace UK highlighted the plastic waste exports crisis last year with its viral animation Wasteminster – viewed over 10 million times.

Wasteminster depicted 1.8 million kilograms of plastic waste being dumped on Downing Street – the same amount that is exported from the UK each day.

The UK produces more plastic waste per person than almost any other country in the world – second only to the USA. In 2018, the UK generated 5.2 million tonnes, enough to fill Wembley Stadium six times.

While this itself is a massive problem, the vast majority of households do their best to make sure their waste recycled.


 

What happens to our recycling?

The YouGov survey shows how almost four in five (77%) people in the UK recycle plastic products in order to reduce plastic waste.

However, three in four (75%) don’t know what happens to their plastic recycling after disposing of it.

‘The plastic crisis is out of control. And the only system that people have to combat it – recycling – is broken. The vast majority of us try to play our part in tackling the plague of plastic waste but without government policies that actually reduce packaging and improve recycling – rather than burning, burying or bundling it off to pollute other countries – we’ll continue to fight a losing battle. It’s simply not good enough. That’s why The Big Plastic Count is so important. So join The Count and let’s push the government to take ambitious action on plastic.’

MAJA DARLINGTON
Greenpeace UK’s plastics campaigner

Tackling the plastics crisis

The Big Plastic Count will uncover the truth about how much plastic packaging waste households throw away and how much of it is really recycled – new evidence that will be vital for pressuring the government and supermarkets to tackle the root cause of the plastic crisis.

The campaign is supported by actor Bonnie Wright, as well as naturalist and television presenter, Chris Packham.

‘It’s ridiculous that we’re still swamped with plastic waste when it makes so many of us furious. The natural world can’t cope. We need to find out what’s really happening to plastic that’s supposedly recycled. I’ll be joining The Big Plastic Count and I’d urge you to do it too.’

CHRIS PACKHAM
Naturalist and TV presenter

Greenpeace UK and Everyday Plastic will use the results of The Big Plastic Count to push the UK government to introduce stricter policies to reduce plastic waste.

These include setting a target to reduce the UK’s single-use plastic by 50% by 2025, banning all plastic waste exports and implementing an all-in Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for recycling and reuse.

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