Lockdown survey reveals household plastic waste increase

A lockdown survey has revealed that the amount of plastic waste in British households increased over lockdown.

The Everyday Plastic Survey tracked 483 participants’ plastic footprint over a three-month period during lockdown.

In total, 22,891 pieces of plastic were recorded and analysed – with the average amount of plastic thrown away in a week being 128 pieces per household. A similar survey conducted prior to lockdown found that, on average, households were discarding 99 pieces of plastic.

Everyday Plastic, the organisation behind the survey, said that if you were to scale these statistics to the UK population, it would mean that 3.5 billion pieces of individual plastic would be getting thrown out each week of lockdown by British households.

The findings also showed that of this plastic waste, 65% was soft, thin, flimsy plastic – of which, ‘hardly any’ is recyclable in the UK. Only 37% of the plastic waste collected is considered recyclable by councils in the UK, the organisation added.

Of the pieces thrown out, 68% (15,566) was used to wrap, package or consume food and drink, while 1,960 pieces of fruit and veg packaging waste was also disposed of.

Daniel Webb​, founder of Everyday Plastic, said, “​These results are definitely frightening, but somewhat unsurprising. The Covid crisis has impacted every aspect of our lifestyle. During the first few weeks of lockdown, we saw grocery shortages, stockpiling, restricted shopping and fewer packaging-free choices. The outcome of The Everyday Plastic Survey​ supports assumptions that domestic plastic waste increased under lockdown conditions, particularly fruit & veg packaging, snack wrappers, parcel bags and PPE​.

“​Like so many other individuals, families and businesses we had to react and adapt to this pretty adverse situation. With many kids being homeschooled and parents on furlough, we felt it was a great opportunity to launch a lockdown edition of ​The Everyday Plastic Survey.

“The Everyday Plastic Survey ​is designed to fast track our awareness and understanding, which in turn leads to more responsible consumer choices. We believe that this encourages – or ultimately obliges – businesses and governments to improve their practise and policy. This project can show that individual actions – even the small ones – make a big difference. People’s individual choices are personal, but collectively, those choices become political.​”