Nearly 100 billion pieces of plastic packaging are estimated to be thrown away by UK households every year, with just 12% likely to be recycled in Britain, according to the country’s largest ever survey of household plastic waste.
For one week in May, just under 100,000 households across the UK counted their plastic packaging waste and sent their results to Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic as part of The Big Plastic Count.
The startling results suggest that the UK’s homes produce 96.6 billion pieces of plastic packaging waste a year, with only 12% being recycled in the UK.
83% of the plastic recorded was from food and drink packaging waste, with the most common item being fruit and veg packaging.
The UK government publishes data about the amount of plastic waste being collected from households by weight. However, there are no official figures about the number of plastic items being thrown away.
The Big Plastic Count results
97,948 households across the UK counted 6,437,813 pieces of plastic packaging waste as part of the Big Plastic Count.
On average, each household threw away 66 pieces of plastic packaging in one week, which amounts to an estimated 3,432 pieces when applied over a year.
If we assume that the weekly average is typical of every household in the UK,. It can reasonably estimate that households throw away 1.85 billion pieces of plastic packaging a week. Over a year, that equates to 96.6 billion pieces – in the UK alone.
Pint cups in the environment
Globally 500 billion plastic cups were used each year. If lined up end-to-end these cups would span 50 million kilometres – or more than 130 trips from the Earth to the Moon.
In the UK, some 100 million plastic cups are used annually during music festivals and live sporting events.
Rarely collected and processed for recycling, these cups are destined to be strewn across Britain’s landscapes.
Plastic pint cups are the sixth-most commonly found plastic item in Britain’s rivers, and the eighth on the nation’s beaches. MPs warned that these pint cups are ‘single-use items that will end up in landfill, in incinerators or directly in our natural environments’.
The Single-Use Plastics Ban
Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, believes the government must add plastic pint cups to its single-use plastics ban, which seeks to end the impact of problematic and highly polluting plastic items.
The ban currently covers plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds, and is expected to be expanded to include plastic cutlery, plates and polystyrene cups, as well as plastic sachets.
‘The Single-Use Plastics Ban is a powerful piece of legislation designed to end the scourge of plastic pollution. But currently it doesn’t go far enough.Sian Sutherland
‘The plastic pint cup is a glaring omission. Totally valueless, rarely recycled, these cups are destined to pollute Britain’s natural habitats for centuries to come.
‘If the government is to realise its ambition of being at the forefront of tackling plastic pollution among world leaders, it must listen to the country’s politicians and the public, and introduce an outright ban on plastic pint cups immediately.’