The Big Plastic Count is back!

78,308

people and you!


Everyone can now sign up to take part in The Big Plastic Count.

Sign-up here

FAQs

How do I order my pack?

When you sign up you’ll be asked for your mailing address to receive a physical pack. Of course, it’s plastic-free and printed on recycled paper, but you can also opt out if you’d rather download a digital version.

Can we take part as a group?

We’d love community groups and teams of colleagues to join The Big Plastic Count! Simply sign up individually and then you can swap tips during the week and share your results between yourselves. Check out the resources for community groups here.

My pack hasn’t arrived yet, what can I do?

Most packs will arrive a week before the count in March. If there’s an issue though you can access the digital pack, and it’s also in the email you received when you first signed up. It includes a printable tally sheet – or you can tally online too.


Getting Involved

How can I get my school/class involved?

It’s fantastic that you want to empower your pupils to be a part of ending the plastic waste crisis! Registering your class or school to take part in The Big Plastic Count is easy and you can sign up by clicking this link.

I teach my children at home, can I take part as a school? 

Definitely! Just sign up to take part and register as a school.

You will need to manually add the details of your home school to access all the resources and information about how to take part.

Our school isn’t based in the UK. Can we still take part?

Unfortunately not, as we are investigating how much plastic is used in UK households, and analysing this evidence based on data about UK recycling and waste management. Data from outside of the UK will muddle our results a bit, and we need the evidence to be as accurate as possible so that we can put pressure on the UK Government to back an ambitious Global Plastics Treaty.

What will I receive to help me take part?

Once you sign up, you’ll be sent a step-by-step teacher guide, class PowerPoint, learning activities, a pack to help pupils take part in the survey, and even a ready-made letter home to parents and guardians.

Will this be a lot of extra work for me?

We know that teachers have a lot on their plates, and so we’ve made it as easy as possible to get your pupils involved. Our education packs have been written by a teacher, with teachers in mind, and include everything you’ll need to take part (see the question above for the pack contents).

How can I take my class to Youth Empowerment Day?

It’s fantastic to hear that you want your class to join us to present the results to the government at Westminster, London on 17th April 2024 – we’d love to have you there! Simply tick the box to say you're interested in hearing about the day when you sign-up to take part in the Count, or email us at help@thebigplasticcount.com to register your interest and we’ll be in touch.

I took part with my class last time, can we compare our results?

As most teachers’ classes change annually, you can’t compare your results from previous years within the dashboard but if you have access to your previous class footprint, you could compare the results as a class activity. We will also be releasing an analysis of how the national results compare. As individuals, we have limited choice about how much plastic we use. It’s governments and big businesses who have the power and responsibility to tackle the plastic waste crisis.

How can I take part with my household if I’ve registered as a teacher?

You can still take part at home if you’ve registered as a teacher! You can sign up now as a household (we suggest you use a different email address to make it easier to keep track of your accounts).

Signing Up

I’m a teacher and I can’t find my school in the drop-down list. What should I do?

If you’ve signed up as a teacher and can’t find your school or other education institution in the list you’ll be given the option to manually add your school. Schools that are manually added won’t be visible to other teachers and teachers in the same school won’t be able to connect their classes. You’ll still find all the resources and information you need to take part on your dashboard.

If you had to add your school manually, but still want to find out your whole school footprint, once each of your school’s classes have submitted their results, you can generate each class’s footprint. You can then use these to work out the average footprint - it makes for a fun Maths activity to do in class!

I signed my class up to take part in The Big Plastic Count, and I’m showing as anonymous / my colleagues can’t find me

We understand that some people want to protect their data and privacy by not being visible to other users from the same school. When you signed up to take part, you would have selected to not be visible to your colleagues. Unfortunately, this cannot be changed after signing up.

Schools that are manually added won’t be visible to other teachers, and teachers in the same school won’t be able to connect their classes.

You’ll still find all the resources and information you need to take part on your dashboard.

Is my class in my school visible to teachers in other schools who’ve signed-up?

No, only teachers in your school can see you if you have selected to appear to others in your school. No one outside your school can see you, or any of your or your class’s data on the dashboard.

Submitting Data

Is my pupils' data anonymous?

Your pupils will enter their data using their unique class link. They will be asked to enter their first name and the first two letters of their last name. This is so you know which pupils have entered their data, you can amend any submissions you need to, and you can generate pupils' individual footprints. Your pupils are only identifiable to you. Other teachers in the same school and other teachers signed up for The Big Plastic Count can’t see your pupils' data. We don’t collect any other personal data from pupils.

Why does each pupil's data need to be submitted individually?

Each pupil's data needs to be submitted as an individual entry, and not combined into one submission. This means we can get an accurate understanding of plastic use per household.

Can my pupils get their own individual footprint?

As well as finding out your class’s footprint, as a teacher you’ll also have the option to see and print your class members’ individual plastic footprints too. Once a pupil has submitted their data, you’ll be able to see it by selecting your class from your dashboard, viewing the pupil’s data and selecting ‘Generate Pupil Footprint’.

What if my pupil enters their data incorrectly?

That’s no problem! If you select your class from your dashboard, and select the pupil whose data has been inputted incorrectly, you’ll be able to amend their data.


What do I do if I miss a day of counting?

Don’t worry if you miss a day of counting – when you submit your results you can select how many days you counted for.

What if I miss an item of plastic?

If everyone does seven whole days and counts all their plastic waste we get better data, but if you miss something, don’t worry! Your data is still important.

How do I work out which category to put an item in?

Use your instinct and judgement to categorise your plastic, you’ll probably get it right! But if you’re still unsure and would like some more help, check out our Plastic ID Tool where you can find a long list of examples and definitions.

What aren’t we counting?

We are only interested in counting plastic packaging waste, so you don’t need to include plasters, dog poo bags, plastic cutlery or period products.

We are also excluding non-dairy milk/juice cartons (TetraPak), Pringles tubes, coffee cups, as they are made of a mix of materials.

We recognise that some plastic products are essential for Disabled People, or people with medical conditions, and so for example we don’t count plastic straws or medication blister packs.

Check out our Plastic ID tool if you’re unsure what to count.

What if we use a lot of plastic?

Please remember, this isn’t about feeling guilty about the amount of plastic you use! Too much single-use plastic is produced and there aren’t reusable alternatives that suit everyone’s needs. Together we’re gathering the evidence needed to push for proper action on plastic.

What should I do with my plastic afterwards?

Dispose of your plastic waste in the same way you would normally – reuse what you can, recycle what you can and throw away the rest. We know it may feel disheartening, but you’re doing your bit, and with the evidence you’re helping us build, we’ll push the government, big brands and supermarkets to do theirs.


How do I submit my results?

Please scan the QR code at the bottom of your tally sheet or visit the submission page. Remember – you won’t be able to submit your results until after The Big Plastic Count week (11-17 March).

If you’re taking part as a school, you can find your unique class link for your pupils to submit their results on your dashboard.

When do I need to submit my results by?

The deadline for submitting your results is 31 March 2024.


How do I take part if I can't upload my results online?

Order a pack which will be sent to you through the post, and at the end of the Count week, return the tally sheet to us, at the address provided. Please make sure your name and address are clearly written, and also write down the number of people in your household, and number of days you counted plastic for. Then we'll input the data for you.

What does ‘universally designed’ mean?

The design of a structure or environment so that it is understood, accessible and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age or ability. Lots of reusable alternatives to plastic aren’t currently universally designed, meaning that they’re unusable for many people. Read our disability justice page to learn more.

Isn’t plastic essential for medical products?

Yes, medical products are not part of the count because they’re essential. It’s not appropriate for every type of packaging to transition to reusable options. For example, some medical equipment is sterile on use and then disposed of. Medication also comes in plastic packaging, and many medical supplies that Disabled People rely on are plastic too.


Why is The Big Plastic Count only over one week?

The aim for The Big Plastic Count is to get lots and lots of people involved, counting their household plastic packaging. One week is enough time to collect useful data without taking up too much of people's time.

How do you work out my footprint?

Once we have a school or household’s count results, we apply national data on different types of plastic to calculate how much, on average, would be collected for recycling, what’s then likely to happen to it, and what that means for your footprint.

Does the survey track my plastic?

It’s not possible for the survey to specifically track where plastic from your household is sent.

What data sets does the survey use?

Vital data about quantity and type of plastic packaging is being generated through this citizen science research project. Assumptions about how much plastic is collected and where this plastic is sent to is from RECOUP and WRAP data.


Why aren’t we counting TetraPak?

TetraPak is a multi-material packaging, and different parts enter different waste streams.

The same applies to sandwich packaging, coffee cups, Pringles tubes and other similar products that have coating and/or don’t allow you to separate the different materials.

The data on recycling rates for TetraPak and other composite material is not readily available.

Why are you working on plastic when climate change is the biggest threat?

Plastic is part of the climate change problem. Almost all plastics are made from fossil fuels - coal, oil, or gas. Therefore plastic emits greenhouse gases at every single stage of its lifecycle; if we produce less plastic, we can reduce emissions. The remove, reduce, reuse, refill, recycle economy we’re pushing for is a vital step towards tackling climate change.

Why are you focusing on the government rather than individual plastic consumption?

We can’t solve the plastic problem without big changes that only the government can make happen. Ultimately it’s the government that needs to get producers to stop overproducing and switch to reusable packaging that caters to everyone's needs.

What are we actually asking the government to do?

We want the UK Government to push for a strong and ambitious Global Plastics Treaty, to protect people and planet from plastic production and pollution. Negotiations for a Global Plastics Treaty are happening at the moment, at the United Nations. We want a Treaty which will deliver a cleaner, safer future for people, wildlife and future generations. Specifically, we want the Treaty to:

1) Cut global plastic production by at least 75% by 2040

2) End single-use plastics and the devastation caused to the natural world, as well as human health

3) Move us towards an economy focused on re-use of materials, so packaging can be kept in circulation and out of the environment.


Has The Big Plastic Count happened before?

Yes. In 2022, nearly 250,000 people from schools, households and communities across the country made The Big Plastic Count the biggest ever investigation into UK household plastic waste. It showed that nearly 100 billion pieces of plastic are thrown away in the UK each year, with hardly any of it recycled. You can read the full report.

Why is it happening again?

Our findings made it clear: recycling can’t fix the plastic crisis. That’s why The Big Plastic Count is back and this time, we’re not only measuring the scale of the problem, we’re going to influence a Treaty that could solve it.


What is the Global Plastics Treaty?

Right now, world leaders are negotiating The Global Plastics Treaty; an international legal agreement to prevent the harmful impacts of plastic. This United Nations Treaty is a once-in-a-generation chance to protect our planet from plastic pollution. If the UK government, with its powerful position on the world stage, champions bold, decisive action, we can end the age of plastic.

How can The Big Plastic Count contribute to an ambitious treaty?

By joining us to count your plastic waste for one week, you can help gather even more evidence about how much plastic the UK uses, and what really happens to it. Governments and companies simply aren’t doing enough to stem the plastic waste crisis - they need to face up to the fact that we can’t recycle our way out of this mess.

They need to hear loud and clear from citizens that we’ve had enough of too much plastic, and that we want decisive action. The more of us who take part, the stronger the evidence and the louder our voices will be.

We’ve influenced a major United Nations Treaty before. Thanks to the tireless work of Greenpeace supporters and a coalition of organisations, The Global Oceans Treaty was agreed in 2023. It’s considered the biggest conservation win in history, with the potential to protect 30% of our oceans by 2030. Together, let’s make history again.


When will the results be published?

The results of The Big Plastic Count will be published in mid-late April 2024.

Can I do anything with my school or community?

Absolutely! Following the release of The Big Plastic Count results, we encourage families, schools, communities and businesses to take part in Unwrapped, three days of local and regional events to raise awareness about the impact of the plastic problem on your community. We'll release more info on how to set up or join an event near you in early-2024.

How do I get my MP involved?

It’s really important that MPs hear that their constituents want proper action on plastic waste. MPs can put pressure on the Government to lobby for a strong Global Plastics Treaty.

You can encourage your MP to take part in The Big Plastic Count, share your results with them, and even invite them to an Unwrapped event after the Count has taken place! We'll release more info on how to set up or join an event near you in early-2024.


How can I take my class to Youth Empowerment Day?

It’s fantastic to hear that you want your class to join us to present the results to the government at Westminster, London on 17th April 2024 – we’d love to have you there! Simply tick the box to say you're interested in hearing about the day when you sign-up to take part in the Count, or email us at help@thebigplasticcount.com to register your interest and we’ll be in touch.

When/where is Youth Empowerment Day?
Wednesday 17th April, in central London. Most of the day will take place at a venue in Westminster, Church House, and then in the afternoon pupils will meet with MPs in the Houses of Parliament. The day will run from approximately 10.30am - 4pm.

How many schools/pupils will be invited to come along?

We're in the process of shortlisting interested schools. Last year we were able to accommodate representatives from nine schools, and this year we again hope to involve as many schools from across the UK as possible. Each school is likely to be able to bring 2-4 pupils and 1-2 adults, we will discuss this with you if your school is shortlisted.

Are you providing any support to schools to help them take part?

We can provide tailored support to enable your school's participation, such as help with travel expenses. You will be contacted to discuss your school's specific needs if you are shortlisted.

What activities will the day involve?

The day will involve a series of fun and interactive workshops. Pupils will learn about the power of their voice at a national and global level, including how Parliament works, and how treaties are agreed. They'll get creative in a craft session and finally they'll have the chance to meet MPs to have their say.

How can I get involved as an organisation?

It's great that you want to be a part of the day! Please email us at help@thebigplasticcount.com and one of the team will be in touch.

Contact Us

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Sign up to take part in The Big Plastic Count from 11-17 March.

You can help us gather the vital evidence we need to convince UK ministers, supermarkets and big brands to lead the way at global talks that could finally phase out plastic production for good.

Sign up now

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