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The Big Plastic Count – Let’s tackle the plastic problem

By Lily Henbrey

Forster has committed to addressing climate action through every aspect of our business – and that means encouraging and enabling everyone in the team wherever possible.

As part of this, several of us recently joined thousands across the UK in taking part in The Big Plastic Count, meticulously noting every piece of plastic our households threw away for a week.

The campaign, from Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic, will paint the biggest and best picture to date of the scale of household plastic waste in the UK. The ambition is to use this game-changing evidence to push the government to bold action, and on an individual level, make us all that little bit more careful when it comes to our own consumption.

So, we all tacked tally sheets to our fridges and got counting. When it came to the final day, we were all shocked to see the extent of our plastic consumption broken down for us.

To put it in context, in one week, my three-person household used 63 bits of plastic – the equivalent of 3,276 pieces in one year. And of that plastic, just 12% is recycled in the UK. The rest is either exported abroad, landfilled or incinerated.

This was a real wakeup call that not only do we need to reduce our reliance on single-use plastic, we also need drastic improvements to our plastic recycling infrastructure to support more circular plastic systems.

Luckily, there are tangible actions we can take to address our plastic consumption, going beyond our work with clients to change the system and thinking about what we can do in our everyday lives, now.

Some of the actions we’re taking include:

  • Stem the flow at its source

We are all so conscious of the need to can single-use plastic altogether. But even if we all made one or two swaps, we can make a difference. As zero waste chef Anne-Marie Bonneau said:

“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”

Choosing unwrapped, or the less packaged option is a good place to start. It’s not always easy in a supermarket, so we’re trying to shop local where we can- markets, bakeries, fishmongers and greengrocers tend to use less packaging and can even be cheaper.

In Greenpeace’s own words, we’re also, “joining the refill revolution”. Plastic bottles and coffee cups are out, and reusable containers are in.

  • Choose recycled

Sometimes, plastic is genuinely essential. Food waste is a huge problem, and many food products will need some plastic wrapping to prevent them from going bad before they reach our plates. Also, for people living with a disability, switching to reusables just isn’t possible. For instance, plastic straws – their flexibility can be a key function that alternative materials can’t provide.

So while cutting out all plastic just isn’t possible right now, where we can, we’re trying to buy products in recycled packaging. This guarantees recycling has already happened, and plastic that would have otherwise been discarded has been rescued and repurposed. Our client, Prevented Ocean Plastic, does just this and looking for their label is a good place to start.

  • Community action

Finally, we’re channelling our inner activists and pushing the powers that be for action, whether that’s signing petitions, writing to our MPs, or using our voices to drive change.

Will you join us?