The Big Plastic Count Results: How citizen science exposed a system incapable of tackling the plastic crisis

This report reveals the results of The Big Plastic Count. Almost a quarter of a million participants threw away 6.4 million pieces of packaging waste in just one week, yet only 12% is likely recycled. It provided overwhelming proof that the UK’s waste system cannot cope with the enormous amount of waste generated.


The results of The Big Plastic Count provide a truly unique snapshot of the scale of the country’s plastic crisis. Over one week in May, nearly a quarter of a million people counted their plastic waste to contribute to this first of its kind citizen science investigation.

The shocking results suggest that the UK’s homes produce 96.6 billion pieces of plastic packaging waste a year, with only 12% being recycled in the UK. The rest is exported to other countries to deal with (17%), buried in landfill (25%) or burnt in incinerators (45%).

The results send a clear and urgent message: recycling is not enough – we are producing far too much plastic packaging waste to deal with – so we must turn off the plastic tap. The only solution to plastic pollution is stopping our reliance on plastic.

The government must set legally binding targets to almost entirely eliminate single-use plastic, starting with a target of a 50% cut in single-use plastic by 2025. It must also ban plastic waste exports, set a moratorium on new incinerators and finally implement a Deposit Return Scheme for plastic bottles and new Extended Producer Responsibility requirements.