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Environment

Why you should count your plastic waste to help fight pollution

Running this week, the Big Plastic Count can help you understand what waste you produce – and fight plastic pollution more widely.

Plastic. It’s just about everywhere you look, and as we all know by now, it’s a disaster for the environment.

Unfortunately, many of us rely on single-use plastic items in our everyday lives, whether in toothbrushes, food packaging, toys or the beauty products we buy – but do you know exactly how much plastic you consume?

The Big Plastic Count is your chance to find out. Set up by Everyday Plastic and Greenpeace, the count will allow you to see just how much plastic you use over the course of the week.

Submitting your tally will also help Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic to fight plastic waste.

If you’re keen to get started, here’s everything you need to know about how it works, how to take part and why cutting down on plastic is essential to saving the planet. 

What Is The Big Plastic Count?

The Big Plastic Count was founded by Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic as a way to find out exactly how much plastic is used by households in the UK as an average. 

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It involves households who sign up counting how much plastic they use over a week, between May 16 and May 22.

The idea is that the organisations will gather the data and present it to the government in order to push action on tackling plastic waste. 

They’re calling for a reduction in single use plastic of 50 per cent by 2025 and a ban on sending waste to other countries.

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The count also serves as a way for people across the UK to better understand the problem of plastic waste, and consider ways that they could reduce their own contribution to the problem.

Everyday Plastic founder Daniel Webb counted his plastic for a year in 2017, filling 40 bin bags of waste in total. He told BBC News that the experience “changed my life”.

How does The Big Plastic Count work? 

The first step is to sign up to the count on Everyday Plastic’s website – you can do this by following this link.

After signing up, you should receive a digital counting pack containing everything you need to get started.

There is also an option to get a pack delivered, though as the count has now started it won’t come in time to begin straight away.

You can either print off a tally sheet from your digital pack or do your plastic counting online. Remember that you can only do one count per household.

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To take part, you’ll need to count every single piece of plastic packaging waste that you throw away, whether it goes in the bin or your recycling box. Anything you throw away while outside of the house should be counted too. 

You can either count as you go or store up all your waste and count it at the end.

The most important bit is that you input your data on Everyday Plastic’s website, as this helps the organisation keep track of how much each household is producing.

Don’t worry if you skip or miss a day – you can indicate this when you enter your results or simply continue the plastic count for an extra day or two at the end. 

Once you’ve submitted your results, you’ll be given your household’s “plastic footprint”, along with tips to help reduce plastic in day-to-day life.

Once all the data has been received, Everyday Plastic will work out the national results, looking at how much plastic is wasted on a broader scale.

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How bad is plastic pollution?

It’s estimated that the UK generates more than two million metric tonnes of plastic packaging waste every year, while five million tonnes are used worldwide every year.

Individuals in the UK have the second highest individual plastic consumption in the world, after the US.

Plastic requires fossil fuels to produce, and is often burned at the end of its life, producing even more carbon emissions.

It is a highly dangerous material for the natural environment as it doesn’t decompose properly, lying in landfill for centuries or worse, breaking down into microplastics and wreaking havoc on human and animal health.

Microplastics have now been found everywhere from deep sea beds to inside human lungs. 

What can I do to take action on plastic pollution? 

Aside from taking part in the Big Plastic Count, there are numerous ways you can reduce plastic use in your everyday life. 

Reducing is always better than recycling, as “recycled” plastic waste is often shipped to other countries and burned. 

If using plastic is unavoidable, try to make sure the kind that you’re buying is recyclable, or think about the ways in which you could re-use the item at home.

Many “refill shops” now offer ways to refill on groceries like milk or cereal without the packaging, and allow you to bring your own containers for re-use.

You could also consider making other “swaps” to avoid plastic in the everyday items you buy, such as opting for reusable nappies or sanitary products, or switching to a bamboo toothbrush.

These small changes all have their place in the fight against plastic pollution, but for bigger change you could consider joining a local campaign group or organisation to fight the problem on a wider level. 

You could also consider writing to your MP and encouraging them to raise awareness of the issue in parliament or support a ban on certain kinds of plastic.

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