Domestic plastic waste increased under lockdown conditions, particularly fruit & veg packaging, snack wrappers, parcel bags and PPE, according to the findings of the Everyday Plastic Survey.
The Everyday Plastic Survey challenges participants to collect and record a week’s worth of their household plastic waste before submitting their data to receive their own personalised plastic footprint.
This footprint provides a comprehensive breakdown of what they throw away and where it goes.
Over the last three months, 483 participants (179 households) have taken part in a special lockdown edition of the project. A snapshot of the results shows:
- In total, 22,891 pieces of plastic were collected, recorded and analysed.
- The average amount of plastic thrown away in a week was 128 bits of plastic per household.
- Of the 22,891 pieces, 68% was used to wrap, package or consume food and drink (15,566 pieces).
- The participants collected 1,960 pieces of fruit and veg packaging waste and 2,951 snack wrappers
- making up 22% of the total collection (more than 1 in 5 pieces).
- 65% was soft, thin, flimsy plastic.
- Only 37% of the plastic waste collected is considered recyclable by councils in the UK, according to RECOUP’s Household Plastics Collection Survey 2019.
- The highest amount of plastic collected in one week was 734 The lowest was only 17.
- If all households chucked out the estimated average, it would mean that 6 billion pieces of domestic plastic waste are being thrown away every week in the UK.
Daniel Webb (pictured right), founder of Everyday Plastic said: “These results are definitely frightening, but somewhat unsurprising.
“The COVID crisis has impacted every aspect of our lifestyle. During the first few weeks of lockdown, we saw grocery shortages, stockpiling, restricted shopping and fewer packaging-free choices.
“The outcome of The Everyday Plastic Survey supports assumptions that domestic plastic waste increased under lockdown conditions, particularly fruit & veg packaging, snack wrappers, parcel bags and PPE.”
These figures have enabled Everyday Plastic to estimate that nearly 3.5 billion individual pieces of household plastic waste could be thrown away in a single week.
By applying the average household waste to the population of the country, the figure illustrates the ‘huge impact’ single-use plastic packaging has on the waste system and environment, Everyday Plastic says.
Of the 22,000+ pieces analysed, 63% are not collected by councils for recycling, the organisations says.
The Everyday Plastic Survey
Everyday Plastic attracted worldwide media coverage after Mr Webb collected every piece of his own plastic waste for a year.
After counting, categorising, analysing and photographing every piece, he went on to make a giant mural before co-authoring a seminal report with earth scientist Dr Julie Schneider. Webb describes the last 2 years as an “out-of-the-ordinary, unique personal journey” – an experience that led to the launch of The Everyday Plastic Survey.
The Everyday Plastic Survey is specifically designed to be a fun and interactive way to connect individuals with the global plastic problem and hopes to mobilise a new wave of environmental campaigners.
The project, which is supported by Hubbub, has been trialled with schools, businesses and communities over the last 12 months, with 250 households participating to date. By making adjustments, Everyday Plastic has been able to navigate the ‘huge challenges’ generated by the pandemic, it says.
Mr Webb said: “like so many other individuals, families and businesses we had to react and adapt to this pretty adverse situation. With many kids being home-schooled and parents on furlough, we felt it was a great opportunity to launch a lockdown edition of The Everyday Plastic Survey.”
The Everyday Plastic Survey is designed to fast track our awareness and understanding, which in turn leads to more responsible consumer choices
“The Everyday Plastic 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 practise and policy.
“This project can show that individual actions – even the small ones – make a big difference. People’s individual choices are personal, but collectively, those choices become political.”
The interest in and demand for the project during lockdown has affirmed the organisation’s plans to run The Everyday Plastic Survey as a nationwide campaign in 2021.
“We want anyone across the country to take part, no matter who you are, where you are, or what your knowledge or experience of plastic pollution is,” says Mr Webb.
“This project isn’t designed to make us feel bad about what we consume, especially during these more difficult times. It’s about having an appreciation of our shared impact and identifying the simple, inexpensive ways we can tackle the problem together.”