The Big Plastic Count

The results for the Big Plastic Count are out.

The Big Plastic Count took place in May this year. You had to count all the plastic you threw away for one week and submit the results on the Big Plastic Count website.

Almost a quarter of a million people took part and altogether they threw away 6,437,813 pieces of plastic. On average, each household threw away 66 pieces of plastic in one week.

That’s a lot of plastic waste!

The results showed that only 12% of this plastic waste is likely to be recycled in the UK. 17% is shipped overseas. 46% is probably being incinerated and 25% is going to landfill.

In Birmingham where I live, most rubbish that isn’t recycled gets incinerated.

When we did the Big Plastic Count, my family of 5 people threw away 76 pieces of plastic, which would make 3952 pieces of plastic in one year. 76% of our plastic waste was food and drink packaging, 0% was cleaning and toiletries and 24% was everything else.

I think we used a lot of plastic food packaging because we eat lots of pasta which comes in small plastic bags. It was quite hot that week so my brothers had ice creams which came wrapped in plastic. We volunteer to walk a dog twice a week and her owner usually gives us treats afterwards which come wrapped in plastic too.

We used less plastic for toiletries and cleaning because we’ve worked really hard to reduce the plastic we use for these, for example we use bamboo toothbrushes, our toilet paper comes wrapped in paper instead of plastic and we use solid soap and shampoo bars, solid soap for washing up and soap flakes for washing clothes, which all come wrapped in paper.

We ordered some clothes online which came that week and some of them came wrapped in plastic so that was part of our “everything else”.

I decided to write letters to some of the companies that our plastic waste came from.

We ordered some welly socks from Muddy Puddles which came wrapped in individual plastic bags. I wrote a letter saying I don’t think socks need to be wrapped in plastic. The plastic was biodegradable but even that’s a problem because it often just breaks down into little pieces which can be dangerous and lots of plastic waste including ours gets incinerated anyway.

I got an incredible reply from Muddy Puddles saying they’re going to stop wrapping their socks in plastic bags and use a cardboard sleeve instead!

We buy a lot of our dried food like pasta and lentils from Suma and a lot of it comes in small plastic bags so I wrote a letter to Suma asking if they could sell some things in bigger bags to use less plastic.

I got a really useful reply from Suma telling me about some of the things they’re doing to reduce plastic waste and suggesting places to buy their food with less packaging including Good Club, which is an online zero waste shop so we’re going to start shopping there in future to try and reduce our plastic waste.

We bought some clothes from Frugi and some came in plastic bags but some came in compostable bags. I looked at their website where there’s loads of good information about different types of packaging and I was happy to find out that they’re already changing to all compostable packaging. I wrote a letter to Frugi saying I’m really happy about this.

They sent a nice reply back with a t-shirt and reusable water bottle which I really love!

The Big Plastic Count are calling for the Government to:
1. Set a target to almost entirely get rid of single-use plastic, including reducing single-use plastic by 50% by 2025
2. Ban exporting plastic waste to other countries
3. Put in place an all-in Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers
4. Stop new rubbish incinerators being built

You can sign the petition to help make this happen here.

I’ve been involved in campaigning for a Deposit Return Scheme and I’ve written two blog posts about it: Deposit Return Scheme and More Deposit Return Scheme Campaigning.

This month is Plastic Free July which is a brilliant opportunity to reduce plastic use. We’re still trying to reduce our plastic use at home. This blog post has some ideas of things we’ve already done.

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