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1.7 billion pieces of plastic packaging thrown away in UK every week

UK households throw away around 1.7 billion plastic items every week, according to a new report from the UK’s Big Plastic Count initiative.

Nearly 225,000 people from 77,000 households, including 28,000 pupils from more than 5,000 school classes, took part in the “Big Plastic Count”, conducted by Greenpeace UK and Everyday Plastic. Around 50 MPs also took part in the scheme, which involved people counting the amount of plastic packaging they threw away in a week.

It turned out they threw away a total of almost 4.64 million pieces – around 60 items per household. If all UK households are included, this equates to 1.7bn pieces of plastic packaging per week and 90bn units of waste per year.

According to the report, only 17% of plastic waste in the country is recycled, 58% is incinerated, 14% is exported and 11% is sent to landfill.

Emphasising that incineration releases toxic gases that pollute the air and worsen climate change, the report noted that this situation is not in line with the government’s commitment to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It said:

“What’s worse, 18 new incinerators are being built in the UK – from Glasgow to the Isle of Wight.”

It added that the country’s recycling systems were failing to cope with the huge amount of plastic waste. The report warned:

“What’s more, the recycling process releases microplastics into our air and water – worsening the very issue it’s designed to solve.”

Against this backdrop, companies and the government should take action to reduce plastic production by at least 75 per cent by 2040, the report said.


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