The UK’s Plastic Problem: How Much Do We Use & How Can I Reduce My Plastic Waste?

In recent years, there has been growing environmental awareness in society. Many of us are now committing to household recycling schemes — but make no mistake, we still have a single-use plastic problem in the UK.

We all know just how dangerous and devastating plastic pollution is. It’s estimated that eight million tonnes of plastic enter the sea every year, to the detriment of marine life as well as our landscapes.

Here’s some facts about our plastic consumption in the UK — some alarming, some interesting — as well as ways we can all play a role in going greener!

 

In numbers: Our single-use plastic problem in the UK

  • 38.5 million — The amount of plastic bottles used each day in the UK. (1)
  • 16 million — The approximate number of plastic bottles that are not recycled per day — entering landfill, our environment or oceans. (1)
  • 5 million metric tonnes — The amount of plastic used each year across the UK. Half of this is packaging, which includes plastic bottles. (2)
  • 46.2% — The percentage of plastic packaging waste that was actually able to be recovered or recycled in the UK; this is less than The Netherlands, Germany and Spain, although higher than the EU average of 42%. (3)
  • 1.75 billion — The amount of single-use plastic bags used over the course of a year, according to the most recent government data. Although still shocking, this represents a decrease of 83% from 2014. (4)
  • 24% — The percentage growth in plastic waste in the UK according to the latest figures, compared to 2010. (2)
  • 48% — The estimated landfill rate for plastic in the UK, according to government statistics. (2)
  • 40kg — The approximate amount of plastic waste most UK households throw away every year. (5)

Sources: Water.org (1); House of Commons Library (2); Eurostat (3); gov.uk (4); Statistica (5).

How can I reduce my single-use plastic consumption?

Looking for some easy adjustments to your lifestyle that will make a real difference? Form eco-friendly habits to last a lifetime — and say ‘see ya, single use’!

Reusables and refillables – Hitting the gym? Choose a refillable water bottle. Heading to the takeaway? Bring your own food container to reduce styrofoam. Grabbing a coffee? Insist on the use of your own refillable coffee cup. (On the subject of coffee, if you have a coffee pod machine, make sure you steer clear of the non-recyclable plastic pods — did you know that they can take over 500 years to decompose?) Coming prepared takes practice, but all of these individual lifestyle changes add up and drastically diminish our plastic consumption.

Drink more water from the tap – It’s a fact that most of our litter in the UK comes from drinks consumption and plastic bottles, so this is a very important place to start. By making tap water consumption a habit and staple of your lifestyle, you’ll be more hydrated, have less temptation to reach for bottled water or soft drinks, as well as save money in the long term. If you have concerns about the taste or scent of your water supply, an at-home filtration system will mean you have abundant, healthy and delicious water straight from the tap!

Get back to basics with milk deliveries – It’s true — the milkfloat is making an eco-friendly comeback. Having your milk delivered in glass bottles and collected for re-use can drastically diminish the amount of plastic your household is contributing to landfill, or energy to recycle the empty containers.

Always carry a bag – Since the phasing in of the 5p charge for single-use plastic bags in the UK, their use has declined by over 83% — but they are still a problem. The latest UK government statistics show that, despite progress, over 1.75 billion single-use plastic bags were issued over the course of a year. Make sure you’re never caught short if you’re out shopping or having a bit of retail therapy by packing a small, reusable shopping bag. 

Choose loose produce – It can be difficult to avoid all plastic packaging, but when you’re going shopping, say ‘no’ to pre-packaged items and don’t rely on the throwaway grocery bags provided for loose items. If everyone brought their own reusable produce bags, supermarkets may eventually get the hint and we’d certainly see less of a plastic footprint!

Show your steel – Plastic straws may be small, but they can certainly add up. Stainless steel or metal straws can look smart and do just as good of a job — so making sure there’s one available in your bag or a supply in your kitchen drawers is never a bad call.

Kickstart your journey to a reduced-plastic lifestyle with Doulton®

Doulton®’s range of ceramic water filtration products give great tasting, healthy filtered water, at home or on the go — helping you and your family to lead more environmentally conscious lives.

Our stylish, refillable TASTE bottle is ideal for when you’re out and about socially, working or travelling. For the home, Doulton®’s filtration systems will encourage the family to swap the pop and choose hydration over pollution.