We love a family challenge in our house, especially an environmenal one, so when we heard about the Greenpeace Big Plastic Count last month we needed little persuasion to join in.
The Greenpeace initiative asked households to tally the plastic they used in a week (whether recycled or binned) so they could gather a load of data and use it to show companies and the government quite how much plastic we're getting through as a nation - and how recycling isn't the answer.
Supermarkets, brands and the government continue to push recycling as the solution to the plastic waste crisis, even though we’re producing too much in the first place and our recycling systems can’t cope. It's a smoke and mirrors game that maintains the status quo - continuing production.Recycling alone isn’t going to solve our plastic problem. But at the moment, there’s nowhere near enough evidence to show how much plastic leaves UK households. And most of us have no idea where it really ends up when we throw it in the bin or the recycling. That’s why Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic have come together to create The Big Plastic Count.
A few years ago we had a fairly successful go at giving up plastic for six weeks, so we thought our plastic haul for the Greenpeace Big Plastic Count would be fairly low.
How wrong we were! The amount we seem to have got through over just seven days was eye-opening.
On the grocery front, even though we generally try to buy loose fruit and veg without plastic, I’d say a good 80% of our plastic came from food – and a woeful percentage of was unrecyclable. Some things, like clear plastic trays, stretchy plastic food bags, bottles and lids will go in our recycling bin. But the cling film around pizzas, cereal bags, wrappers for bags of raisins, pasta, salad, cucumber, cheese… is all destined for general waste. We can only recycle what our council will accept and unfortunately our council says no.
We had a couple of special circumstances that meant we used a bit more plastic than usual. We celebrated a birthday, so we had the wrapper from a bunch of flowers, plus some wrapping from party food we wouldn’t usually buy and stuff from presents. We were also poorly, which meant covid tests (hello ridiculous amount of plastic), paracetamol wrappers and lids from bottles of cough syrup.
Plastic from being poorly
One of the most annoying things we found was the plastic packaging from stuff you order online that you just have no say in. We bought sticker sheets online for party bags for our daughter’s birthday in an attempt at a more eco-friendly choice, but EVERY SINGLE SHEET came individually wrapped in its own (unrecyclable) cello bag, then they were packed together in a bigger bag, which was then packaged and sent in a plastic postage bag. Depressing.
Accidental party bag plastic
Our children were surprised and a bit outraged at how the pile of plastic grew throughout the week, but they’ve loved getting involved in the count. Our six-year-old daughter is desperate to save the environment and protect wildlife but feels powerless to know what to do; the Greenpeace Plastic Count gave her a focus – something tangible to do that feels like it might actually make a difference. We really hope it does 😊
Our slightly horrifying plastic haul for the week
UPDATE: We were the featured family on the BBC News website's coverage of the Greenpeace Big Plastic Count! Read the article by clicking here (and please don't laugh at our family photo!)