Big Plastic Count: UK’s biggest investigation into household plastic waste begins

Around 140,000 people, including dozens of MPs, will take part in the Big Plastic Count across the UK

Kate Ng
Sunday 15 May 2022 15:52 BST
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A huge initiative to discover how much plastic waste households in the UK produce has begun today.

Tens of thousands of people across the UK will take part in recording how much packaging they throw away as part of an effort to provide a national snapshot of our plastic waste problem.

Environmentalist Chris Packham, actor Bonnie Wright and dozens of MPs will be among the roughly 140,000 people participating in the Big Plastic Count, Greenpeace said. It is the country’s biggest investigation into plastic waste ever.

The campaign aims to demonstrate the scale of the UK’s plastic waste problem and to inform people what happens to their waste when they dispose of it.

The data collected from the Big Plastic Count will be used to fill what the charity described as a crucial evidence gap and help show the government and supermarkets that more needs to be done to combat the plastic waste crisis.

The count, a collaboration between non-profit group Everyday Plastic and Greenpeace UK, will see people recording and submitting the different types of plastic packaging they throw away between 16 to 22 May.

According to Greenpeace, the UK produces more plastic waste per person than any other country except the US, and exports large quantities of plastic waste abroad.

Mr Packham, who presents Springwatch, branded the UK “one of the worst plastic polluters in the world”, saying “our broken recycling system doesn’t work, so instead of dealing with our plastic waste ourselves we send vast quantities of it overseas where it’s out of sight and out of mind for us, but destroying nature and harming people elsewhere”.

He added: “The Big Plastic Count is such an exciting project. It will, for the first time, tell ordinary people what happens to their plastic waste after we throw it away and we hope it will force the government to take action and address the plastic waste crisis.”

Chris Thorne, plastics campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said the number of sign-ups makes it “clear once again that the public is concerned about their plastic waste and want to see genuine action from the government to turn the tide on our plastics crisis. That means an immediate end to us dumping our waste on other countries like Turkey and legally-binding targets that actually tackle the plastic problem at source.”

And Daniel Webb, of Everyday Plastic, said counting all of his plastic waste for a whole year had helped him to understand his “personal plastic footprint”, saying he was “completely shocked” by it. “The results from The Big Plastic Count will show us what’s really happening to our plastic waste, at a national scale, and inspire thousands of participants to demand real action to stem the tide of plastic packaging,” he said.

People can still sign up to take part by visiting the Big Plastic Count’s website and downloading a digital pack with instructions on what type of plastics to count and how to record them.

Greenpeace UK and Everyday Plastic said the results of the survey will be released as soon as they have been processed, with campaigners hoping they can push the government to reduce single-use plastic by 50 per cent by 2025, ban all plastic waste exports and implement a deposit return scheme for recycling and reuse.

Additional reporting by PA

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