’Recycling’s not enough,’ says The Big Plastic Count

Written by Ollie Wilkinson

time to turn off the plastic tap

The UK’s largest investigation into household plastic waste has revealed just 12% of the 1.85 billion pieces of plastic thrown away each week is recycled. 

Almost a quarter of a million people from nearly 100,000 households took part in The Big Plastic Count, which set out to “gather new, game-changing evidence” on plastic. And believe us, that’s exactly what they got. 

Take a deep dive into our reaction to uncover the key takeaways from the eye-opening 2022 study…

What is The Big Plastic Count?

The Big Plastic Count aimed to “uncover the truth about how much plastic is passing through our homes”, and what happens to it once it’s thrown out.  

How did the study achieve this? By inviting all 248,899 participants to tally every piece of plastic they threw away over the course of a week. 

Founded by Everyday Plastic and Greenpeace (two organisations that know what they’re talking about!), this was an investigation Ofsted, Ted Hastings and the AC12 gang would be proud of, leaving no single-use plastic container unturned. 

When was The Big Plastic Count?

The Big Plastic Count took place between 16th and 22nd May 2022. In July 2022, the results were announced. And we must warn you, they’re not pretty. 

The results are in:

Thanks to its sheer scale, The Big Plastic Count uncovered just how much plastic waste is produced in UK households. And much like when you open a bar tab at your local, the final amount may shock you. 

Here are some of the key (and somewhat scary) takeaways…

How much plastic do UK households throw away?

The average household throws away 66 pieces of plastic per week, amounting to 3,432 pieces per year. Across the UK, this equates to 1.85 billion pieces a week. 

How much plastic is actually recycled?

A measly 12% of plastic is recycled. More waste ends up shipped overseas, incinerated or landfilled than in reprocessing facilities. You’re beginning to see the problem, right? 

What happens to plastic that’s not recycled?

Here comes the really grim part… Almost half (46%) of all plastic waste is incinerated, while 17% is exported overseas, and the remaining 25% is sent to landfill. 

The UK exports 1,800 tonnes of plastic waste every day, with Greenpeace discovering that half of the plastic waste the UK government recorded as ‘recycled’ is actually sent overseas for other countries to deal with. 

Meanwhile, the 71% that’s incinerated or sent to landfill is vastly increasing the pollution and toxins swarming our lands, oceans and atmosphere.

Credit: The Big Plastic Count report

What are the most common plastic items?

Food and drink packaging accounted for a whopping 83% of the plastic thrown away by households, with 7% made up of cleaning and toiletry items and 10% covering plastic bags and other cr*p. 

Fruit and veg packaging was the most common plastic item in the thousands of households taking part in The Big Plastic Count, with 1.02 million pieces counted. This was closely followed by snack bags, packets and wrappers, which also tallied up to over one million pieces.

Credit: The Big Plastic Count report

What now?

The Big Plastic Count’s results have painted a grim picture of the UK’s waste problem, revealing just how much plastic is used, and what really happens once it’s tossed out. 

Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic will now use the results to “push the government to take bold action on plastic”, aiming to half single-use plastics by 2025. You can become a part of the solution by signing Greenpeace’s Plastic Waste Crisis petition

“Recycling plastics is not the silver bullet that many think it is.” – Everyday Plastic

These are the words of Everyday Plastic, who claim too much focus is placed on “making plastic recyclable rather than reducing plastic in the first place.”  

The co-founders of The Big Plastic Count go on to conclude that “a circular economy needs to be built around materials that can be reused and recycled many times over”. 

We couldn’t agree more, which is why our fresh drinks are delivered in return and reuse glass bottles, our cleaning products are refillable and plastic free, and our baked goods and fruit & veg come in home-compostable paper bags. 

According to our Sustainability Attitudes Study, 70% of Brits want to do their bit for the planet, but over half admit they can’t maintain their efforts. Here are some of our key findings: 

  • – Almost two-thirds (62%) say that greenwashing from companies confuses their efforts. 
  • – Over half (56%) blame complicated recycling rules, with one in five unconfident about finding up to date information for their local area. 
  • – 44% mistakenly presume recycling sites will fix it if they put something in the recycling bin which doesn’t belong there. 

It’s time to turn off the plastic tap

The plastic tap has been running for too long, clogging our oceans, streets and planet with waste. But we all have the power to pull the plug, and alongside The Big Plastic Count, we’re settling the score on this maleficent material. 

Just like Everyday Plastic and Greenpeace’s big plastic perusal, our personal plastic-saved counters empower you to measure your positive environmental impact from your doorstep.  

Using Litterati

Whether it’s plastic free groceries or our Rubbish Summer campaign, we love nothing more than saving and counting plastic. And when it comes to reducing waste, we’re like moths to a flame. Or Brits to a beer garden at the slightest hint of sunshine. 

“Of the 13 billion plastic bottles used annually in the UK, only 7.5 billion are recycled,” according to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee. And without our customers, there’d be over 48 million more plastic bottles in circulation, enough to fill over 100,000 wheelie bins!  

Explore our eco-friendly groceries to find out how much more you could be saving, and help make sure plastic’s truly down for the count. 

More on the Big Plastic Count

Single-use items are made to be used and abused; our planet isn’t. Keep calm and carry on cutting down waste by exploring our helpful sustainable resources: 

Contact Us

If you’re keen to cut down on single-use plastic, and give a little something back to Mother Earth, start by buying less of it! On our milkround, you can get grocery deliveries of plastic free products up to three times a week. Get started on our website, place your first repeat order and choose a date that suits you – no joke, it’s literally that easy. 

If you have any questions about our fantastically plastic free products or need any more information, have a read of our how it works page and check out our mission. We’ll see you on our round!

Look how much plastic we've saved!


Plastic bottles saved and counting


Wheelie bins of plastic saved from landfill

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