Brits are chucking away an estimated 1.7 billion pieces of plastic a week in what campaigners have referred to as an “out of control” crisis.

A typical household disposes of 60 items of plastic packaging every week, which equates to a national total of 90 billion items each year. Just 17% is recycled.

The data comes from more than 225,000 people who took part in The Big Plastic Count – the UK’s largest waste survey – and kept track of their waste for a whole week, from March 11 to March 17 this year.

Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic, which carried out the research, says the UK throws away more plastic per person than every other country in the world, except the US.


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Nearly 225,000 individuals, from over 77,000 households, and numerous members of community groups and businesses across the UK took part in the survey.

The survey also found that snack packaging (699,932 pieces) and fruit and veg packaging (697,085 pieces) were the most commonly counted items. Over half (58%) of the pieces of packaging thrown away are being incinerated – up 12% from 46% in 2022.

A further finding was that 17% of plastic packaging was recycled, 14% ended up as waste exports and 11% ended up in landfill.

Rudy Schulkind, political campaigner, Greenpeace UK, said: “We’re using everyone’s evidence from The Big Plastic Count to confront ministers with the scale of the problem and to show the extent of 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 countries in the Global South.

“This year, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to finally secure a global, legally binding target to radically reduce 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.”

Single-use plastic packaging in cafes and restaurants, for sachets of ketchup and miniature toiletries is set to be banned across the EU from 2030, as part of new rules to curb waste across the bloc.

Circular economyClimate crisisEnergyInnovationMaterials and packagingNature and the environmentNet zeroNewsPolicySocial sustainability

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