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A Story for Plastic Free July

“If you really believe in something you can make it happen and it’s okay to make it up as you go along.”*


Back in 2016, Dan Webb thought that plastic pollution happened in other parts of the world, not at home in the UK. Many of us thought the same way in the years before Blue Planet II, except that when Dan moved out of London to a coastal town and was really shocked to see how much plastic pollution there was on the beaches, he decided to do something about it.


Inspiration

He started to realise just how much packaging there was in the supermarket, the amount that he was bringing home and how much was thrown away. 

Recycling was supposed to solve the plastic problem but clearly wasn’t working. 

How much was he throwing away, was it all food and drink packaging from the supermarket? What was actually happening to all of his plastic waste?

This is where Dan’s story differs from most of ours. 

 

He decided not to throw away a single piece of plastic waste for an entire year.


Whether he was at home or at work, at the pub or the cinema, visiting family or on holiday, he made sure that none of the plastic waste he produced would be thrown away. No bottle tops, no inner soles from his shoes, no toothbrushes, no toothpaste packets… 

Towards the end of the year there were 4,500 pieces of plastic in 22 bin bags piled in his spare room! It took four days with 20 volunteers to separate, count, categorise, photograph and weigh every single piece, covering the floor of a 2000 capacity music venue and he knew that he had a story to tell!


Telling the story

It was about this time that Blue Planet II thrust plastic pollution into the limelight. Dan was able to tell his story to a wider audience, and the reaction made him realise that the sight of his own plastic footprint was much more relevant than the often quoted: ‘8 million tons of plastic entering the ocean every year, more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.’


If this experiment had such a dramatic effect on his own thinking, by offering this experience to others, it would help them discover their own plastic footprint and galvanise and inform them. He started work on developing a project that would do just that.


Birth of the Big Plastic Count

Dan trialled the project with families, schools, businesses and community groups for almost two and a half years, some of it over Zoom during lockdown. The brief for the project was simple. All you had to do was count your plastic waste for just a week (not a year) and then submit your results online. That generates your plastic footprint. 


At an individual level this helps people to connect to the Plastic problem, and  to understand it better. It provides them with the real data to help them understand and reduce their own plastic waste.


Working with Greenpeace UK, the Big Plastic Count went national, and since 2022 472,000 people have taken part and they have counted 11 million pieces of plastic.

 

Plastic Free July

That was how Everyday Plastic got started. If you have taken part in this year’s Big Plastic Count, or just want to make a change, then they suggest some simple things you can do to reduce your own plastic footprint  here.


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For more information contact: info@scarabtrust.org.uk


Images

Beach plastic UK - image by author

albatross chick fed on plastic - image by kris krüg (ST ref: 1316)


*Dan Webb, founder Everyday Plastic

 

 

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