Report claims “mismanaged” short life plastic waste in UK estimated to total over 250,000 tonnes


“Mismanaged” short life plastic waste in the UK is estimated to total more than 256,000 tonnes by the end of this year, according to EA Earth Action.

The Swiss-based research consultancy has published a new report on Plastic Overshoot Day, analysing what it calls the “global plastic waste management crisis”.

It says the UK is predicted to experience its ‘Plastic Overshoot Day’ on 17 November 2023, which is when the total amount of plastic waste outweighs the country’s ability to manage it.

The report specifically focuses on short life plastic waste originating from solid waste management systems and encompassing plastic packaging and single use plastics. Textiles, long-lasting plastic products and industrial plastics were excluded from the study.

Out of 157 days of “plastic overshoot” planned in 2023, the UK will be responsible for 14.1 hours, EA Earth Actions says.

It has established 10 country archetypes which includes tailored policy recommendations for every country in the world, with the UK categorised as a ‘Transactor’ – wealthy countries mostly in the West that export and import a lot of waste usually from neighbouring countries.

Policy recommendations from EA Earth Action include speeding up the transition to circular systems and reducing plastic consumption.

Plastic pollution is a global crisis, but every country must play their part

The global average consumption of short-life plastic per person per year is 20.9 kilograms. But the average plastic consumption per capita in the UK is 31.1 kilograms, it says.

The UK is part of the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution pledged to end plastic pollution by 2040. A ban on some single-use plastics will be introduced by the UK Government in October 2023.

Sarah Perreard, Co-CEO and Stakeholder Engagement Lead at EA Earth Action said: “Plastic pollution is a global crisis, but every country must play their part. INC-2 negotiations in Paris clearly showed that oil producing countries are on a very different agenda than countries who see a circular economy as an opportunity.

“If the UK wants to show real leadership on this issue, it must prioritise significantly reducing its plastic consumption, implement effective reusable packaging schemes, and join the 13 European countries that have already introduced a functioning and effective Deposit Return Scheme.

“A robust and equitable Global Plastics Treaty is possible, and it can be if it is backed by the science and data, like in our Plastic Overshoot Day 2023 report.”

Global Plastic Overshoot Day is forecasted to take place on 28 July 2023.

Shifting in our consumption habits


The CIWM (Chartered Institution of Wastes Management) commented on the report, saying, “We note the UK is rated as a ‘Transactor’ in the report, where consumption levels are high but waste management effectiveness is considered good with a low volume of waste ending up mismanaged and a low risk of plastic leakage into the environment. However, there is more that needs to be done.

We believe the best way to combat plastic pollution is by making significant shifts in our consumption habits away from single-use disposable items and by ensuring we have robust systems for collecting and managing the end-of-life stage for what we do use.

We must continue to explore and implement comprehensive strategies that tackle the root causes of the plastic pollution problem

“Alternatives that encourage reuse, recycling, and overall reduction of plastic waste are key to this shift. This includes collaboratively finding innovative packaging solutions, adopting Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging, collection consistency, and encouraging consumers to make sustainable choices.

“We must continue to explore and implement comprehensive strategies that tackle the root causes of the plastic pollution problem. 

“We echo EA Earth Action’s belief that it is crucial for the UK and other nations to speed up the transition towards circular systems. In or role as the professional body for resource and waste managers, CIWM will continue to support and advocate for these important measures. 

“Our goal is to help build a society where resources are valued and nothing is wasted, to contribute to a world in which plastic pollution is a thing of the past. We believe that this is not only possible, but essential for the health of our planet and future generations.”

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