New laws urged as scale of plastic incineration revealed

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Fewer than one in five of the plastic items thrown away by Brits is recycled here, a major study has revealed.

The Big Plastic Count, carried out by Greenpeace UK with not-for-profit body Everyday Plastic, found that UK households discard an estimated 90 million things made from the material every year.

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Just 17 per cent of these are recycled domestically, according to the research, which was conducted in March with involvement of more than 200,000 people.

A further 14 per cent was exported, with 11 per cent sent to landfill. The remainder – more than half the total – was incinerated.

Snack packaging was responsible for the most discarded plastic, with fruit and vegetable coverings close behind.

“It is clear from these results that the plastic waste problem is not getting any better, and that recycling is not going to solve it,” said Cressida Bowyer, deputy director of the Revolution Plastics Institute at the University of Portsmouth, which supported the research.

“New thinking around packaging choices, backed up by legislation, is urgently needed.

“Implementation of reuse and refill systems, for instance, could transform the plastics economy from a linear to a more circular model and significantly reduce plastic production and pollution.”