Climate and science news from the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Jules Birkby's daughter was shocked by how much plastic they used in a weekImage source, Jules Birkby
Image caption, Jules Birkby's daughter was shocked by how much plastic they used in a week

Our planet pays a high price for plastic.

Are we really in control when most affordable products come with plastic?

Tens of thousands of people in the UK carefully counted their plastic waste at home during a week in May. The Big Plastic Count was run by two groups.

What did they discover about their dependence on a material that has become a part of our everyday lives?

Jules plastic count

Jules Birkby and her family threw away more than 100 pieces of plastic. Her daughter's sixth birthday was the most frustrating because of the packaging.

She was surprised by how much they used. Jules says that the hidden stuff that isn't recycled is what gets you.

She says that the stickers were packed together in a bigger bag after they were individually wrapped.

Jules says that her children are passionate about protecting the environment, but she finds it difficult to make the right choices as a consumer.

We can't do everything. The manufacturer has control over it. It's a juggle.

Xavier Taylor plastic count

It was the cucumber packaging that annoyed him the most, according to a 25 year-old scheduler from Portishead in south-west England who is applying to become a firefighter.

He says it's easy to buy fruit and vegetables outside of the country where he lives.

He would like to see more local produce in shops, which would reduce the need for excessive packaging.

He says that he gets more frustrated by the fact that supermarkets sell a lot of plastic.

The cost is too high even if he could find alternatives.

He says that things that are better for the environment are more expensive than things that are the same.

Emily Varley graphic

"It's the fruit and vegetable packaging that really gets to me," says Emily Varley.

I don't understand why apples or peppers must be in a bag. "Why is it more expensive when they are loose?" Emily asked.

She believes that going completely plastic-free is for people with more money and time.

She wants to know why pasta from a re-fill shop costs five times more.

The government and brands need to lead the way. Most people don't have the option of changing what they buy.

  • The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told BBC News that they have restricted the use of plastic straws and banned plastic-stemmed cotton buds.
  • The government is also introducing a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles - consumers pay a small deposit which they get back when the plastic is returned.
  • It is also consulting on banning single-use plastic plates, cutlery and balloon sticks.
  • On behalf of supermarkets, the British Retail Consortium told BBC News that the industry is investing in re-use and refill options "with the aim to become mainstream in the next five years".
  • The BRS also says that many supermarkets are working with suppliers to "eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging".
Lynda Jones plastic count

I didn't think we used a lot of plastic. "It's eye-opening to see how much plastic my husband and I use." The items they used were plastic.

The disabled couple can't go to the supermarket so they have their shopping delivered to their home. She can't buy fruit and vegetables that don't come in packages.

I don't like plastic very much. It's not necessary to put packaging on everything.

She suggested that the industry doesn't seem to be on the same page when it comes to recycling, pointing out that one brand might make recyclable packaging for a product but a rival doesn't for the same item.

She said things are changing slowly. A lot more should have been done by now.

  • Plastic
  • Plastic pollution
  • Recycling