Poll reveals “typical” Brit’s annual waste

The average Brit will get through 242 plastic bottles, 109 single-use coffee cups and 209 crisp packets each year, according to research.

Research polling 2,000 UK adults revealed the typical person’s annual waste also includes 378 snack wrappers, 251 cans, and 374 cardboard boxes or paper packets annually.

It’s not just food and drink packaging piling up, as the UK will collectively throw away 468 million spray bottles from cleaning products and 520 million shampoo bottles every year.

It also emerged 83% are not clear which of these items can and can’t be recycled.

As a result, the average Brit admits to throwing an estimated 30% of their recyclable items into general waste.

This is potentially costing the economy more than £95m each year, as the recyclable materials which could have been otherwise sold on to manufacturers and generate money for the economy just end up in landfill or are incinerated.

Stefano Rossi, packaging CEO at DS Smith, which commissioned the research, said: “There is an undeniable desire from the public to help with the climate crisis. But a lot of packaging is still not recyclable, and people are confused about what packaging goes into which bin.”

The study also found that when unsure about whether a package can be recycled, more than four in 10 (44%) prefer to ‘play it safe’ and put it in the general waste bin.

There is an undeniable desire from the public to help with the climate crisis. But a lot of packaging is still not recyclable, and people are confused about what packaging goes into which bin

As many as 56% confessed to throwing things away with the general waste despite believing it could be recycled, with 32 per cent of these blaming unclear labelling.

DS Smiths estimate this could be resulting in 2.6 million tonnes of recyclable materials going to landfill each year.

At the other end of the spectrum are ‘wish-cyclers’ – the 30% of people who, faced with uncertainty over whether their boxes, bottles and containers can be recycled, put them in the recycling bin and hope for the best.

But 51% also admitted to putting things in the green waste that can’t be recycled, with 44% of those not knowing where else it should go.

And 21%  are hopeful the packaging would be put it in the right bin for them by collectors.

More than a third (37%) have even put something in the recycling bin that still has food and drink on it – which will contaminate the recycling.

But some of these habits could be attributed to laziness, as 16% have put general waste into the recycling simply because it was easier.

More than a quarter (27%) have done the same because they weren’t paying attention, while 19% rarely or never check labels before choosing what to do with old packaging.


The study also found that more than half of all those surveyed, via OnePoll, said the recycling information on packaging is unclear (56%) and 32% said there was no clear recycling label to follow.

Further to this, 21% are uncertain about the recycling rules where they live, with 23% admitting they don’t know which recycling bins to put rubbish in in the first place.

Following the findings, DS Smith has announced its Circular Design Principles to help companies design reuse and recyclability into their packaging so that it becomes easier for customers to become part of a circular economy.

The principles have been developed in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a global thought leader on the circular economy.

Stefano Rossi added: “We have launched our Circular Design Principles to help companies evolve to meet the needs of the public.

“By introducing this set of principles, we can design for recyclability, design out waste and pollution, create packaging suited to a circular economy and make it easier to provide labelling to help consumers recycle more.”

Average annual waste for a Brit

Post /junk mail – 349
Magazines /newspapers – 214
Single-use coffee cups – 109
Plastic bottles – 242
Drinks cartons /Tetra paks for juice /milk – 195
Foil crisp packets – 209
Plastic yoghurt pots/ pudding pots – 241
Drinks cans – 251
Glass bottles/ jars – 215
Cardboard packaging – 374
Corrugated cardboard packaging / larger cardboard boxes – 260
Snack wrappers – 378
Plastic trays for things like meat, vegetables, fruit punnets, tray of biscuits – 317
Plastic wrapping around things like meat, fruit, vegetables – 358
Cleaning clothes/ sponges – 10
Cleaning product spray bottles – 9
Shampoo/ conditioner bottles – 10
Body wash soap bottles – 9
Cardboard tubes – 20
Tubes of toothpaste – 9
Toothbrushes – 6 

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