Pupil Scientists Help Reveal Scale of UK Plastic Waste
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Pupil Scientists Help Reveal Scale of UK Plastic Waste

During British Science Week in March, 224,381 citizen scientists, including almost 29,000 school children took part in The Big Plastic Count, the UK’s biggest investigation into household plastic waste. Participants counted all the plastic waste they threw away that week, whether it went into the bin or the recycling.

Here’s what we found  

  • UK households are throwing away an estimated 1.7 billion pieces of plastic packaging every week. That’s around 90 billion pieces a year.
  • Over half (58%) is being incinerated – that’s up from 46% from when we did the Count in 2022.
  • Of the remaining 32%, just 17% of our plastic waste is actually being recycled. 14% is being exported abroad, and 11% is sent to landfill.

Thanks to the hundreds of thousands of people who counted their plastic waste, the evidence is beyond doubt: the only way to tackle household plastic waste is to reduce the amount being made from the start.

Primary pupils taking action

On 17 April, ahead of Earth Day, primary school pupils from across the UK will come to Westminster to meet MPs, and talk about the results of The Big Plastic Count. They’ll tell their representatives about why they care about reducing plastic, and that they want solutions – so they can grow up on a healthier, greener planet.

Schools and community groups are also putting on events, to share the results of their Count, and talk about the solutions, with their MP and local community. From litter picks to less-plastic picnics, these events will show the Government that the UK public cares about reducing plastic.

“Understanding where our waste comes from, and holding its producers to account, is such an important step towards tackling plastic waste consumption. To see the impact that The Big Plastic Count has had already over the last couple of years, and the young people it has inspired and engaged along the way, has been brilliant” Amy Meek, Co-founder & CEO, Kids Against Plastic

The solution

That’s why Greenpeace, Everyday Plastic and thousands of citizen scientists, are urging the government, brands and supermarkets to call for a strong, legally-binding Global Plastics Treaty that cuts plastic production by at least 75% by 2040. Life in the UK would be vastly improved, with cleaner air, healthier people, a greener environment and accessible packaging alternatives that meet everyone’s needs.

Find out more about the results and how you and your school can take action here. Check out free resources for teachers and find out how to become a Plastic Clever School here.

Image: Greeenpeace, Young people from Kenmore Park Junior School  // Angela Christofilou

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