Manchester Greenpeace calling for action to cut plastic use after volunteers monitored household waste

Hundreds of households in the city spent a week monitoring how much they threw away as part of the Big Plastic Count.

Green campaigners in Manchester are calling on the Government to drastically cut the use of single-use plastic after a massive citizen science survey revealed just how much waste households were throwing away.

The Big Plastic Count, a collaboration between Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic, involved hundreds of households in the city monitoring how much plastic packaging waste they generated.

And the results found that tens of thousands of pieces of plastic rubbish were being lobbed into the bin in the space of just a week by the households taking part.

Manchester Greenpeace says that with just over one in 10 pieces of plastic waste being recycled in the UK the Government must act now to curb the amount of it being produced and make it much easier for people to reuse or recycle it.

And a Manchester MP who took part in the challenge says he also backs action on single-use plastic.

What does The Big Plastic Count’s results show for Manchester?

Greenpeace says that a total of 583 households in Manchester took part in The Big Plastic Count, a citizen science survey involving around 100,000 homes (almost a quarter of a million people) across the UK.

During the week in May when participants were counting the households in Manchester threw out 35,295 pieces of plastic.

That is the equivalent of each household throwing out 61 pieces of plastic per week, which is slightly below the UK average of 66.

Manchester Greenpeace volunteers spreading the word about The Big Plastic Count

Shockingly, though, Greenpeace says The Big Plastic Count’s findings suggest that an estimated 3,432 pieces of plastic waste are binned per household each year, meaning that nearly 100 billion pieces of plastic packaging are estimated to be thrown away by UK households on an annual basis.

In The Big Plastic Count 83% of the recorded plastic ending up in the bin was food and drink packaging, with the most common item being fruit and vegetable packaging.

And Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic say that just 12% of the plastic household waste in the UK is likely to be recycled domestically, with 17% being shipped overseas, 46% being incinerated and the remaining25% being buried in landfill.

What has Manchester Greenpeace said about the results?

Manchester Greenpeace volunteer Martin Porter said: “I’m horrified to learn that just 12% of the plastic we produce is likely to be recycled, and that the rest ends up as pollution.

“I sort my plastic waste and recycle what I can, but it’s clear that this system can’t cope with all our waste, and that it’s up to Government and big brands to reduce the amount of plastic being produced in the first place.

“Plastic is both a global and local issue with high levels of microplastics being found to be contaminating local rivers including the Rive Tame.”

Manchester Greenpeace volunteers supporting The Big Plastic Count

Mr Porter said that during the environmental organisation’s awareness-raising about the Big Plastic Count residents generally seemed interested in finding out more about the topic and there was also buy-in from local politicians.

He said: ”When we were out and about in Manchester talking to local residents about The Big Plastic Count, people were really keen to take part, and to find out what really happens to the plastic they put into the bin or to the recycling bag.

“So I’m pleased that Manchester Gorton MP Afzal Khan signed-up to take part, and urge him and our other Manchester MPs to call on the Government for the ambitious plastic reduction targets that we urgently need.”

What does Manchester Greenpeace say should happen now?

Off the back of the findings of The Big Plastic Count Manchester Greenpeace is making a number of recommendations to the Government.

It wants Westminster to set legally-binding targets to almost entirely eliminate single-use plastic, starting with a target of a 50% cut by 2025. It says alternatives should be affordable, reusable and accessible, including to those with disabilities.

Manchester Greenpeace volunteers are also calling for a deposit return scheme for plastics to be reused and recycled, for a ban on sending UK waste to other countries, and for a moratorium on new incineration capacity.

Has Afzal Khan MP responded to Manchester Greenpeace’s comments?

Manchester Gorton MP Afzal Khan has offered his support for moves to cut down on single-use plastic.

He said: “I am pleased Greenpeace UK hosted the The Big Plastic Count in spring to gather a greater understanding of the amount of plastic used across the UK.

“I participated in the count and was shocked at the amount of throwaway plastic that I used in a day - totalling over 30 pieces in one week. Greenpeace found that over 96.6 billion pieces of plastic are thrown away in the UK every year, with a mere 12% being recycled in the UK.

Afzal Khan MP. Official UK Parliament Portrait

“We need a relentless programme to remove single-use plastics from our economy. I support a deposit return scheme for drinks containers of all sizes and materials, which the Government has delayed an introduction to this scheme persistently.

“We must also halt exporting our rubbish across the globe to be disposed of. We know the planet is warming, extreme weather events across the globe are increasing, and CO2 is increasing, there must be immediate action to address the climate crisis quickly.”