The UK’s Largest Plastic Waste Survey Reveals 1.7 Billion Pieces of Plastic Packaging Still Being Thrown Away by Households Weekly

The Big Plastic Count found that UK households discard an estimated 90 billion plastic pieces annually, with only 17% being recycled domestically.



  • UK households are throwing away on average 60 pieces of plastic packaging per household weekly, an estimated 1.7 billion pieces of plastic nationally weekly, equating to 90 billion pieces of plastic packaging being thrown away annually. 
  • The 90 billion figure is consistent with the first count in 2022, despite overwhelming support for reduction, showing how little progress has been made by supermarkets and big brands in reducing plastic packaging.  
  • Approximately 225,000 participants from households, including 28,000 schoolchildren and community groups and businesses nationwide, counted their plastic waste.
  • Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic are calling on the UK government and supermarkets to advocate for a legally binding target in the Global Plastics Treaty negotiations, and reduce plastic production by at least 75% by 2040.
  • New photos and a results video are available.

London, Tuesday 16 April 2024The Big Plastic Count, conducted by Greenpeace UK and Everyday Plastic, with academic support from the Revolution Plastics Institute at the University of Portsmouth, found that UK households discard an estimated 90 billion plastic pieces annually, with only 17% being recycled domestically.

Running from 11-17 March this year, The Big Plastic Count saw participation from nearly 225,000 individuals, from over 77,000 households, and numerous members from community groups and businesses across the UK. This figure included 28,000 pupils from over 5,000 school classes, demonstrating the desire for change amongst young people. Counts were submitted across all 650 parliamentary constituencies, and 50 MPs across all parties, including ministers and shadow ministers, also took part. 

Further results from The Big Plastic Count 2024 revealed:

  • UK households throw away an estimated 1.7 billion pieces of plastic weekly (60 pieces per household per week), equivalent to 90 billion a year. 1.7 billion pieces of plastic would take one person 53 years and 7 months to count at one second per piece. 
  • Snack packaging (699,932 pieces) and fruit and veg packaging (697,085 pieces) emerged as the most commonly counted plastic items.
  • Over half (58%) of the pieces of plastic packaging thrown away are being incinerated – up 12% from 46% in 2022.
  • 17% was recycled in the UK, followed by waste exports (14%) and landfill (11%).

The national survey shows waves of plastic packaging leave homes across the UK each week. A recent Greenpeace International report showed that 74% of the UK public supports cutting plastic production to curb pollution, underscoring the need for the government to take decisive action to reduce plastic production and transition towards sustainable alternatives.

The Incineration Issue

The ramifications of our plastic consumption extend beyond environmental concerns. Incinerating plastic not only exacerbates climate change and can release more carbon dioxide per tonne than burning coal, but it is also incompatible with the government’s commitment to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and poses health risks to local communities, often in economically disadvantaged areas. With 57 incinerators in operation across the UK, and 18 new incinerators in construction, urgent measures are necessary to address this escalating crisis.

Plastic Production Is Out of Control

An estimated 1.7 billion pieces are being thrown away a week in the UK, demonstrating that plastic production is showing no signs of slowing down. The Big Plastic Count shows what being the world’s second biggest producer of plastic waste looks like – the UK throws away more plastic per person than every other country in the world, except the US. 

Recycling will never be able to catch up with the volume of plastics being produced. Instead, there’s a pressing need for supermarkets and policymakers to embrace reuse and refill schemes that meet the UK public’s desire for sustainable choices.

Inadequate Action on Plastic from Supermarkets

With 81% of plastic counted consisting of food and drink packaging, likely coming from supermarkets, Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic are urging supermarkets to do more to reduce unnecessary plastic packaging.  

As part of the UK Plastics Pact, supermarkets promised to make all their packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, focusing on ‘supercharging recycling’. These results show that they are miles off reaching that goal – despite it being unambitious in the first place. Recycling alone won’t fix the problem. Supermarkets must match the ambition of the UK public, who are overwhelmingly in favour of reuse, refill and reduction schemes that transform how we shop, as new Greenpeace International polling shows. 

The Global Plastics Treaty

The Big Plastic Count 2024 comes ahead of the fourth Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC4) meeting for a Global Plastics Treaty, which will be held in Ottawa, Canada, this month. Recent polling from Greenpeace International, found that 74% of UK residents agree that to stop plastic pollution, we need to cut plastic production. The polling found that 69% of UK residents support the Global Plastics Treaty agreeing a reduction in plastic production, in order to stop biodiversity loss and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Call to Action to the UK Government

In response to the alarming figures from The Big Plastic Count, Greenpeace UK and Everyday Plastic issue a call to action for the government to:

  • Show leadership at the Global Plastics Treaty negotiations by calling for a legally binding global target to cut plastic production by at least 75% by 2040
  • Speed up the introduction of innovative reuse and refill models.
  • Completely ban all plastic waste exports by 2027 at the latest. 
  • Immediately implement an all-in Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) requirements for recycling and reuse. 
  • End approvals for new incineration facilities. 

Supporting Quotes

“We’re using everyone’s evidence from The Big Plastic Count to confront ministers with the scale of the plastic waste problem and to show the extent of the public’s concern and demand for solutions. The plastics crisis is out of control, with production set to triple by 2050 if the industry has its way. The worst affected are the marginalised communities and People of Colour who are more likely to live near incineration sites or to be harmed by the waste we dump in countries in the Global South. This year, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to finally secure a global, legally binding target to radically reduce plastic production, but it will only deliver the kind of progressive action needed if countries like the UK push for plastic production to be reduced by at least 75% by 2040.” Rudy Schulkind, Political Campaigner at Greenpeace UK

“If I started counting every bit of plastic packaging the UK throws away in a week, it would take me until 2077 to count every piece. The problem is huge, and the challenge of fixing it can feel overwhelming. There are solutions out there though. We just need our politicians and big businesses to grasp them – whether that’s moving to refill and reuse products that are accessible to all or introducing targets to cut plastic production.” Laura Burley, Project Lead for The Big Plastic Count at Greenpeace UK

“Over 224,000 people from across the country took part in The Big Plastic Count this year. Our participants have helped us to expose the plastic waste crisis through this unique and engaging investigation, and we’ve revealed that more plastic waste is being burned than ever. Over half of the counted plastic packaging (58%) is ending up at an incinerator, a significant increase on the last Count in 2022. It’s time that the government and supermarkets take urgent action to stop endless plastic production.” Daniel Webb, Founder and Director, Everyday Plastic 

“It’s clear from these results that the plastic waste problem is not getting any better, and that recycling is not going to solve it. New thinking around packaging choices, backed up by legislation, is urgently needed. Implementation of reuse and refill systems for instance could transform the plastics economy from a linear to a more circular model and significantly reduce plastic production and plastic pollution. The negotiations for the Global Treaty to End Plastic Pollution in Canada next week present a critical opportunity to galvanise change. The Revolution Plastics Institute will be attending negotiations, and will be sharing these important results with policy and decision makers.” Dr Cressida Bowyer, Deputy Director of the Revolution Plastics Institute at the University of Portsmouth. 

“I took part in The Big Plastic Count, and I felt shocked by the results I received. I want to be part of a real solution because, although I believe we should all feel a sense of responsibility for our planet and its future, I’d like the government to make bigger changes and act more quickly, for the future generations like my son, and the wildlife, as there’s so much plastic everywhere and it’s so harmful.” Chloë Scrivener, Dorset, participant of The Big Plastic Count 

“Understanding where our waste comes from and holding its producers to account is such an important step towards tackling our collective plastic waste consumption. Seeing the impact that The Big Plastic Count has had over the last couple of years, and the young people it has inspired and engaged along the way, has been brilliant.” Amy Meek, Co-founder & CEO, Kids Against Plastic



Ray Hopkinson, Kibbo Kift Agency – 07717 721 441

Alex Sedgwick, Greenpeace UK – 07973 873 155

Notes to editor:

About The Big Plastic Count 

British Science Week, Common Seas, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, Eco Schools, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Green Schools Project, Kids Against Plastic, Let’s Go Zero, Ministry of Eco Education, Reloop, Students Organising for Sustainability UK, Surfers Against Sewage, Tearfund, Transform Our World, UKWIN, University of Portsmouth and the Young People’s Trust for the Environment are among the organisations supporting the campaign.

The following 50 MPs signed up to The Big Plastic Count 2024: 

Bim Afolami (Hitchin and Harpenden), Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower), Douglas Chapman (Dunfermline and West Fife), Bambos Charalambous (Enfield Southgate), Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde), Angela Crawley (Lanark and Hamilton East), Martyn Day (Linlithgow and East Falkirk), Sarah Dyke (Somerton and Frome), Simon Fell (Barrow and Furness), Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton), Liam Fox (North Somerset), Roger Gale (North Thanet), Paul Girvan (South Antrim), Mary Glindon (North Tyneside), Patrick Grady (Glasgow North), Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South), Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire), John Howell (Henley), Jane Hunt (Loughborough), Preet Kaur Gill (Birmingham, Edgbaston), Ian Lavery (Wansbeck), Carla Lockhart (Upper Bann), Julia Lopez (Hornchurch and Upminster), Rachael Maskell (York Central), Stuart McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East), Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East), Anna McMorrin (Cardiff North), Wendy Morton (Aldridge-Brownhills), David Mundell (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale), Ian Murray (Edinburgh South), Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire), Henry Smith (Crawley), , Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton), James Sunderland (Bracknell), Desmond Swayne (New Forest West), Steve Tuckwell (Uxbridge and South Ruislip), Giles Watling (Clacton), 

The Big Plastic Count website is available here
New photos and a results video are also available.

About Greenpeace International Report 

Findings from People Vs Plastic: Global Support for A Strong Plastic Treaty report indicate strong public support for measures to end single-use plastics and promote reuse-based solutions.

  • 80% of respondents worldwide support the Global Plastics Treaty agreeing a reduction in plastic production, in order to stop biodiversity loss and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • 74% of UK respondents support cutting the production of plastic to stop plastic pollution.
  • 69% of UK respondents advocate protecting biodiversity and the climate by reducing plastic production.
  • 86% of UK respondents think it is important to transition from single-use plastic packaging to reusable and refillable alternatives.
  • 69% of UK respondents support a ban on single-use plastic packaging.

This research was conducted by Censuswide from a sample of 19,088 members of the public in the UK, USA, Canada, India, Brazil, Egypt, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, China, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Austria, and Norway. The data was collected between 16th – 26th February 2024.

About Everyday Plastic

Founded in 2018 by Daniel Webb, Everyday Plastic is an evidence-led non-profit organisation delivering accessible learning and campaigns that tackle the effects of the plastic problem that are felt across our society.  Having co-founded The Big Plastic Count – the UK’s largest-ever investigation into household plastic waste – with partners Greenpeace, Everyday Plastic’s unique methodology for calculating people’s plastic footprint continues to inspire change at every level of society. 


About Greenpeace UK

Greenpeace is a movement of people who are passionate about defending the natural world from destruction. Their vision is a greener, healthier and more peaceful planet that can sustain life for generations to come. They are independent. They don’t accept any funding from governments, corporations or political parties – their work is funded by ordinary people. That means they are free to confront governments and corporations responsible for destroying the natural world and push for real change. They do this by investigating, documenting and exposing the causes of environmental destruction. They work to bring about change by lobbying, consumer pressure and mobilising members of the general public. They take peaceful, direct action to protect our Earth and promote solutions for a green and peaceful future.

Greenpeace has influenced a significant United Nations Treaty before. Thanks to the tireless work of Greenpeace supporters and a coalition of organisations, The Global Oceans Treaty was agreed upon in 2023. It’s considered the biggest conservation win in history, with the potential to protect 30% of our oceans by 2030.


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