New research has found that the amount of plastic waste the UK produces increased during lockdown, with estimates suggesting that 3.6 billion pieces were thrown away every week.
The Everyday Plastic Survey saw participants record the amount of plastic waste produced in a week during lockdown, with 483 people taking part.
The highest amount collected by one participating household was 734 pieces of plastic, while the lowest was 17. On average, the typical household collected 128 pieces of waste over the week – up from the 99 seen in past surveys, Sky News reports. When scaled up, this equates to 3.6 billion pieces being thrown away every week.
Where recycling is concerned, the survey found that 68 per cent of all plastic waste was from food and drink products, but just a tiny proportion of this ended up being recycled.
In fact, just 37 per cent of all plastic waste collected was considered recyclable by local councils, with just five per cent actually being recycled in the end, survey founder Ben Webb explained.
“The outcome of the Everyday Plastic Survey supports assumptions that domestic plastic waste increased under lockdown conditions, particularly fruit and veg packaging, snack wrappers, parcel bags and PPE,” he was quoted by the news source as saying.
“[The survey] is designed to fast track our awareness and understanding, which in turn leads to more responsible consumer choices. We believe that this encourages – or ultimately obliges – businesses and governments to improve their practice and policy.”
Figures from the Everyday Plastic organisation show that the UK population throws away more than 295 billion pieces of plastic every year. If this was piled all together, a mountain of plastic as high as The Shard in London would be created, with a base more than a kilometre in diameter.
Mr Webb carried out the survey himself but over the course of an entire year and found that he threw away 4,490 pieces of plastic. Some 93 per cent of all the waste he collected was single-use packaging, while 67 per cent was used to package, wrap and consume food.
And 70 per cent of the plastic he threw away in 12 months isn’t currently recyclable, with just four per cent of his collected waste recyclable at UK facilities.
Mr Webb described his year-long journey as a “very personal and exploratory” one, saying how amazing it was to see how his mindset changed, as well as his grasp of the issue at hand.
He went on to add that we can’t rely on recycling by itself to resolve the plastic pollution situation – and the key instead is to produce and use far less of the material in the first place, rethinking how we consume.
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