The Big Plastic Count presents a unique opportunity for the public to influence the UN Global Plastics Treaty, emphasising the need for urgent action in the face of government inaction.
This nationwide plastic-counting campaign aims to gather evidence on the scale of plastic waste in the UK. The data collected will serve as a powerful tool to encourage ministers to lead the way in negotiating a Global Plastics Treaty.
The Big Plastic Count Returns
Across the UK, households will count their plastic waste for one week in March 2024.
This second iteration of the survey invites individuals, households, schools, community groups, and businesses to take part in the largest plastic investigation of its kind.
Laura Burley, Project Lead of The Big Plastic Count at Greenpeace UK, highlights the significance of this initiative, stating, "The Big Plastic Count 2024 could be the tipping point for UK government action on plastic."
The first Count in 2022 demonstrated the overwhelming presence of plastic waste in our homes, yet the UK government has yet to set a legally binding plastic reduction target.
The Big Plastic Count 2024 aims to provide even more evidence to hold UK politicians accountable for addressing plastic waste both at home and internationally.
Gathering Data for Change
The data collected from The Big Plastic Count will provide unique insights into the amount of plastic packaging waste generated by UK households. Armed with this information, campaigners will confront UK ministers with the scale of the plastic waste problem and push for ambitious action during the upcoming Global Plastics Treaty negotiations in Ottawa, Canada, in April 2024.
The Global Plastics Treaty has the potential to establish a legally binding global agreement on plastic pollution, but it can only succeed if countries like the UK advocate for a reduction in plastic production of at least 75% by 2040 and the implementation of innovative reuse and refill models.
Nina Schrank, Head of Plastics at Greenpeace UK, emphasises the urgency of action, stating, "The plastic crisis hasn’t gone away but our government is still tinkering at the edges of meaningful action."
Recycling systems alone can not cope with the volume of plastic packaging being used, which mean we must take action to address the issue at its source.
Public demand for action on plastic pollution has grown since the release of Blue Planet II in 2018, and now, as a general election approaches, The Big Plastic Count serves as an opportunity for citizens to join forces and advocate for an ambitious Global Plastics Treaty that leads to significant reductions in plastic production and accelerates national reuse and refill systems.
Results of the 2022 Count
In 2022 almost 250,000 households took part in The Big Plastic Count, revealing alarming facts about plastic waste in the UK.
It was discovered that UK households throw away nearly two billion pieces of plastic packaging each week, with only 12% being recycled domestically. The remaining plastic is either incinerated, exported, or ends up in landfills. Notably, 83% of the recorded plastic waste originated from food and drink packaging, with fruit and vegetable packaging being the most common item.
Just over half of the pieces of plastic thrown away during The Big Plastic Count were soft plastics and plastic film – used in everyday items like crisp packets, bread bags and toilet roll wrap. Soft plastic is notoriously difficult to recycle and just 13% of local authorities collect it.
Daniel Webb, Founder and Director of Everyday Plastic, shares his experience and the impact of the investigation, stating, "Having counted my plastic waste for an entire year, I know exactly how powerful this investigation can be in helping to understand the true extent of the plastic problem."
Despite the rise in public awareness and support, the government has been slow to react. There have been new bans on specific single-use plastic items such as straws, plates, trays, cutlery, and balloon sticks. Yet, more comprehensive measures such as a deposit return scheme and binding plastic reduction targets have been delayed or overlooked.
Banning a limited number of individual plastic items alone will not lead to a significant reduction in waste from single-use plastic. The Big Plastic Count has demonstrated that urgent attention is required for plastic food packaging, which constitutes the largest contributor to waste. But is our government listening?
Take Part in The Big Plastic Count 2024
The return of The Big Plastic Count in the UK is a significant opportunity for individuals, communities, and businesses to contribute to the fight against plastic waste.
By participating in The Big Plastic Count, households can not only assess their own plastic footprint but also contribute to a powerful collective voice demanding change. It is crucial for the government to take decisive action by implementing measures such as a reduction in single-use plastic, banning plastic waste exports, and establishing a comprehensive Deposit Return Scheme.
Together, we can make a difference and ensure that plastic waste is tackled both nationally and globally. Join The Big Plastic Count and be part of the movement towards a more sustainable future.
The Big Plastic Count is taking place 11th to 17th March 2024.
To take part, register now at thebigplasticcount.com