The Big Plastic count has started. On 11 March, 100,000 participants across the UK began recording plastic waste in their households as part of a week-long national survey.

Run by Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic, the survey last took place in 2022, when 250,000 people participated. It found that 100 billion pieces of plastic are thrown away in the UK annually, only 12% of which are recycled.

This year, the participants include almost 13,000 school classes and 38 MPs who will keep a tally of their plastic waste, submitting it online to receive a personal plastic footprint. The footprint will include information on the amount of waste recycled, incinerated, exported or in landfill.

Examination of the results of The Big Plastic Count in 2022 found that 83% of UK household plastic waste comes from food and drink packaging, with the most commonly recorded items coming from fruit and vegetable packaging. 88% of household plastic waste was either burned, shipped abroad, or sent to landfill.  

The results have been used to add weight to Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic’s call to the government to reduce plastic production by at least 75% by 2040. They also considered the need to “speed up the introduction of innovative reuse and refill models.”

GlobalData’s recently released ESG 2.0 report noted some of the dangers associated with plastic pollution. It flagged water pollution as a major problem, noting that “plastic contamination has reached dangerous levels: one in three fish caught for human consumption now contains some form of plastic.”

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On land, it said, “pollution can degrade agricultural soil quality, impacting our food supply and our ability to build stable infrastructures. It can also reduce the quality of life significantly.”

The Big Plastic Count began in the UK when founder Daniel Webb recorded his plastic waste for a year and used the results to develop a new methodology calculating plastic footprint.

Talking about The Big Plastic Count in 2024, he highlighted the importance of the involvement of young people: “With nearly 13,000 school classes signed up to The Big Plastic Count, hundreds of thousands of young people are set to participate in this massive nationwide investigation this week.

“This is a huge rallying cry from the next generation – change isn’t just what we need, but what we want. Counting how much plastic you throw away in a week is a simple but impactful way to discover your plastic footprint while contributing vital evidence so Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic can pressure our government to take urgent action on the plastics crisis.”