Monday 18 July 2022

Plastic Free July

 The Big Plastic Count Results Are In!

Plastics Collection by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Just in time for Plastic Free July, the Big Plastic Count results are in. A survey was sent out to interested hosueholds in May 2022. Published by Greenpeace & Every Day Plastic, the results of the survey are indeed very shocking. 

Some takeaway nuggets include:

🌍  Nearly a quarter of a million people (248,957) from 97,948 UK households took part in the biggest ever Plastic Count Survey.

🌍 On average, each household threw away 66 pieces of plastic packaging in one week, which amounts to an estimated 3,432 pieces a year.

🌍 Over a million pieces of plastics were counted from fruit & veg packaging whilst over a million more made up of snack bags, packets and wrappers.

🌍 The majority of these types of plastics (57%) are soft plastics which are less likely to be recycled.

🌍 The survey found that just 12% of the type of plastics discarded will likely be recycled in the UK whilst 17% shipped abroad, 25% could end up in landfill whilst 46% be incinerated.*

🌍 The UK is the 2nd worse country for plastic waste per capita after the USA and is almost double the weight than plastic waste generated in Italy.

Plastic Bottle Photo courtesy of Pexels
*Different local authorities handle recycling in different ways so there's some level of guesswork involved but the calculations were based on types of plastics being discarded in the week (a tick off chart helped categorise what was being used, ie cartons, peelable lids, trays, wrappers etc and also categories for food, personal products (for body washing etc) & household products such as cleaning sprays & wash tabs etc etc.)

🌍 They concluded that 62% of the pieces of plastic recorded in the count are either not collected or poorly collected for recycling by UK local authorities, and likely to end up in landfill or incinerated.

🌍 Incinerating plastics cause way more pollution/carbon emissions than burning coal & releases toxic fumes into the environment.

🌍 Landfilling meanwhile releases methane & ethylene into the atmosphere as the plastics are broken down (if the landfill is exposed to the elements), coupled with microplastics being carried by wind.

This highlights the need for much better investment in recycling products, reducing single used products & encouraging a deposit scheme for return of plastic bottles as an urgent requirement. The government discussed previously a deposit return scheme however a scheme has yet to be implemented.

Also a bigger look at circular economy would be a help, for instance Mother Nature has far less waste, what is no longer needed goes back into the system and used by some of other part of the eco system. Humans have a much more linear system, make something, use it, discard it, buy another and so on. 

We need to be more forward thinking rather than letting waste pile up to the point where we can no longer live due to all the products we rely on (meat, plants, water, air) becoming too polluted to rely on. Many would say we are already past the tipping point.

A thorough report of the Big Plastic Count is available at: 

So how did I do? 

I've been trying to reduce plastics for a number of years and have been recycling plastics since the late 80s/early 90s. Even so, my weekly plastic tally came to 40 plastic items. 

A portion of these items are re-used as we wash out plastic bottles for making our own fizzy drinks, using a ginger beer plant as a base plus plastic ziplock bags are used for disposing of cat litter. 

The majority of plastic products I buy have recycled content in them, however 40 items was still shocking to me - this is under the national average but it's still too much.

Time for Change Photo by Art Bokeh from Pexels

Some useful links for you:

🌍 5 Surprising Things from the Household Plastic Count

🌍 Government on the Next Steps to Tackle Plastic Waste

🌍 Dame Ellen MacCarthur Foundation - A Circular Economy to Encourage Less Waste

🌍 Greenpeace, Plastic Questions Answered