Climate Action

UK get behind ‘The Big Plastic Count’ to highlight waste problem

Nationwide, 100,000 participants, including nearly 13,000 school classes, are participating in The Big Plastic Count this week.

  • 12 March 2024
  • Press Release

Nationwide, 100,000 participants, including nearly 13,000 school classes, are participating in The Big Plastic Count this week.

The national survey of plastic waste runs from 11-17 March and is a unique opportunity for households to gather evidence for the government about the extent of the UK’s plastic waste problem. People are joining in across all 650 parliamentary constituencies, and 38 MPs are showing cross-party support.

Participants will tally all the plastic packaging they throw away for one week and submit their results on the website.

They will receive a personal plastic footprint showing where their waste ends up—how much is recycled and incinerated, exported, or ends up in landfills.

Almost a quarter of a million people participated in The Big Plastic Count in 2022, revealing that almost two billion pieces of plastic packaging were being thrown away weekly.

This year’s results will be published in mid-April, showing the national picture and whether anything has changed since 2022. The Big Plastic Count is the UK’s largest plastic waste investigation, organised by Greenpeace UK and Everyday Plastic. The results are particularly vital in 2024, the final year of political talks for a global plastics treaty that could finally start to phase down plastic production. The Big Plastic Count 2024 comes after recent reports that the government’s flagship recycling initiative, the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), first announced in 2018, could be delayed until 2028.

“We’ll use everyone’s evidence from The Big Plastic Count to confront ministers with the scale of the plastic waste problem and the public’s concern and demand for solutions. The plastics crisis is out of control, with production set to triple by 2050 if the industry has its way. The worst affected are the marginalised communities and People of Colour who are more likely to live near incineration sites or to be harmed by the waste we dump in Global South countries. This year we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to finally secure a global, legally binding target to radically reduce plastic production, but it will only deliver the kind of progressive action needed if countries like the UK push for plastic production to be reduced by at least 75% by 2040.” Rudy Schulkind, political campaigner, Greenpeace UK

The Big Plastic Count in 2022 revealed:

  • UK households throw nearly two billion pieces of plastic packaging away weekly.
  • Just 12% is recycled in the UK, with the rest being burned, shipped abroad, or languished in landfills. 
  • 83% of plastic recorded was from food and drink packaging waste, the most common item being fruit and vegetable packaging. 

“The natural world can’t cope with all our plastic rubbish. We’ve been calling for action on plastic for years, but the government hasn’t listened. That’s why this year, The Big Plastic Count is gathering even more evidence to push for plastic action in the UK and also globally, in a new UN Global Plastics Treaty focused on reducing plastic production.” Chris Packham, Wildlife TV Presenter & Conservationist, taking part in The Big Plastic Count 2024

Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic are calling on the government to:

  • Show leadership within the Global Plastics Treaty negotiations through pushing for a legally binding target to reduce plastic production at source. 
  • Reduce plastic production by at least 75% by 2040 and speed up the introduction of innovative reuse and refill models.
  • Completely ban all plastic waste exports by 2027 at the latest. 
  • Immediately implement an all-in Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) requirements for recycling and reuse. 
  • End approvals for new incineration facilities. 

Find out more here.