British households fail to recycle 16m plastic bottles a day

16th October 2016 | Recycling

British households use and discard more than 35m plastic bottles a day, and according to new research, as many as 16m of these (more than half) are not being recycled. The Recycle Now campaign group estimates that the number of bottles missing the recycling loop could reach 29bn by the end of 2020, meaning huge pressure on landfill and massive impact on marine life.

The average UK household uses 480 plastic bottles annually, but only recycles 270 of them, meaning that almost half (44%) are not being put into recycling facilities. So a huge quantity ends up in landfill and eventually the world’s oceans where they take years to break down, up to 500 years.

Single use bottles (usually used for mineral water and soft drinks) and commonly cited for contribution to litter and adding to landfill, say Recycle Now, but plastic bottles used at home are also a problem: consumer ignorance and unjustified fears about contamination for failing to recycle containers for bleach, household cleaners and other liquids contribute consumer ignorance and unjustified fears about recycling.

“The number of plastic bottles not being recycled is staggering and will increase further if we don’t take action,” said Alice Harlock of Recycle Now. “Householders are often unsure if items are recyclable, especially from the bathroom, bedroom and living room. An easy way to tell is, if an item is plastic and bottle shaped its recyclable.” Generally, only bottles containing chemicals such as anti-freeze should not be recycled.

More than 8,000 plastic bottles were collected by the Marine Conservation Society’s annual beach clean-up at seaside locations from Orkney to the Channel Islands on one weekend last September. The charity’s annual report published this year revealed a 34% rise in beach litter overall between 2014 and 2015, the largest ever amount of litter per kilometre (3,298 pieces).

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