Ivan Radic l Flickr.com
Ivan Radic l Flickr.com

This week I’m counting all the plastic waste that I throw away or recycle, as part of the UK’s biggest ever investigation into this waste.

From 16th to 22nd May I’m taking part in the Big Plastic Count, an initiative for households and school groups to tally all their plastic waste. The data we will gather will show the scale of the plastic waste problem we are all generating.

I expect the experience of measuring plastic waste will be interesting. It is very easy to throw away a bottle or wrapper without thinking about it. A few years ago, I took part in a similar challenge, spending a month without generating any plastic packaging waste. This is almost impossible if you shop at most supermarkets, which are now wrapping most fresh produce in plastic alongside many other products.

As a result, the UK produces more plastic waste per person than almost any other country in the world. If things carry on as they are, the amount of plastic waste produced around the world is set to double by 2040.

Labour fighting against plastic waste

Plastic waste is just one urgent area where the government should be doing more to protect the environment. You can read more about my environmental policy work here.

Plans to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by 2042 are behind schedule and we need a relentless programme to remove single-use plastics from our economy.

During the passage of the Environment Act 2021, Labour voted to require the Government to set a target to reduce waste, including plastics. Disappointingly, it voted this down.

in 2019 the Government also pledged to ban exports of plastic waste to developing countries and plans to hold a consultation before the end of 2022. This is not fast enough. We cannot keep shipping our problem away. People expect to see these exports banned, more recycling taking place at home and faster action on the climate crisis.

I support a deposit return scheme for drinks containers of all sizes and materials. After persistent delays, the government now says it will be introduced in late 2024 at the earliest. Labour will keep pushing to bring it in as soon as possible. I believe the public would like to see this introduced more quickly.

You can take part in the Big Plastic Count as a household or school classes can join up. Find out more here.

My plastic count:

My plastic count
My plastic count

The following are the items I use in my regular life, that I picked up:

  • A drinks bottle: The bottle is recyclable and made from 30% recycled material. I understand the company does do glass but it’s not available at the local shops I buy from and I don’t think it has a returns scheme. So more to do.
  • Hand wipes: A hangover from Covid, but I can’t see me giving up carrying around either wipes or gel, and they both involve plastic. While I always try and refill my gel bottle, any other suggestions will be useful.
  • Food packaging: I don’t eat any processed food other than vegan cheese and vegan bacon. Unfortunately, they are both typically packaged in plastic, so this is a problem.
  • Blister packs for medication: the Big Plastic Count people didn’t ask us to count them, as they are essential, but I would like companies to consider what else could be used, as they are a regular feature of life for so many people.
  • Cereal bar wrapper: I usually have packed lunch but on a long day last week I bought a cereal bar as a teatime pick me up. I was on the run and I couldn’t find one not made from plastic – I know they exist so I’ll stock up or go back to baking my own.
  • The metal coffee flask eliminates a lot of plastic waste. Making my own coffee to take to work each day stops the use of disposable cups. I also brought a keep cup made of bamboo for when I fancy an extra cup from my favourite coffee shop.

So while I’m not a big user of plastic, there is definitely scope for me to reduce my consumption. I am glad to have participated in this wonderful initiative by Greenpeace UK and Everyday Plastic. It has inspired to think further about how I can reduce my own impact on the environment.

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