Did You Know? Crunching the Numbers on Single-Use Plastic in the UK

14th October 2019 | Words and images by Klean Kanteen UK

With thanks to plastic-free crusaders who have been polluting our news streams (in the best possible way!) with the reality of the damage being caused to our wonderful world through single-use plastics, people are finally sitting up and taking notice.

Environmental organisations, scientists, non-profit groups, eco-friendly businesses, journalists and public figures are among those who have been flying the flag for ‘plastic-free’ for decades and finally the message is building momentum (with a little help from national treasure David Attenborough!) and a spotlight is finally being shone on the magnitude of the problem.

It’s been amazing to see us as a nation begin to tackle this together and make huge changes for the better (great work everyone!), but there’s still a long way to go yet.

So, let's remind ourselves of the scale of the crisis, celebrate the fantastic work that has already been done and set our sights on making single-use plastic a thing of the past once and for all! We can do this (sending virtual high fives to you all)!

Classic Bottle
Steel Cups

It started with a load of rubbish…

The world’s annual consumption of plastic has increased from around 5 million tonnes in the 1950s to nearly 100 million tonnes today – that’s scale of growth is truly terrifying!

The volume of plastic waste per year in the UK is estimated to be nearly 5 million tonnes. For reference, one tonne of plastic is equivalent to 20,000 two litre drinks bottles or 120,000 carrier bags!

Most families throw away about 40kg of plastic per year, which could otherwise be recycled, but as we know recycling isn’t necessarily the solution to the problem.

Where in the world does all that waste go?

Plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose, wow! So how would it be sustainable to manage the volume of waste that is being manufactured?

Of the 5 million tonnes of plastic waste in the UK, roughly two thirds is exported overseas for recycling. In fact, 105,000 tonnes was exported to Malaysia alone between 2017 and 2018.

It is estimated that between 400,000 and 1 million people die every year in developing countries due to diseases that are related to mismanaged plastic waste.

Also, as highlighted in David Attenborough’s coveted Blue Planet documentary series, the damage to our oceans is nothing less than tragic. There are believed to be 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean and a 2019 study found that every single animal washed up on a British shore and examined by scientists had traces of plastic in its stomach.

There’s no place for single-use plastic…literally!

If you lined up all the polystyrene foam cups made in just 1 day, they would circle the earth! Psst, you’re in the right place to help tackle this problem, don’t leave without checking out our reusable bottles, cups and tumblers!

In the UK a huge volume of plastic is consumed every week, but a growing number are making a defiant stand to not be beaten by convenience.

A 2019 GlobalWebIndex study revealed that 53% of UK consumers have reduced the amount of single-use plastic they use – that’s amazing, well done all of you!

Likewise, 42% of consumers have changed their buying habits, taking the time to check that an item is sustainable before purchasing and 82% said they would prefer to shop responsibly.

The ownership to lead changes doesn’t just sit with the consumer though, it starts with the product manufacturing and the retailers who are stocking the items.

Let’s shelve the use of plastics for good…

We manufacture over 300 million tonnes of plastic a year (that is equivalent to the weight of the entire adult population of the planet!), yet 8 in 10 consumers are trying to reduce their plastic waste and half would be willing to pay higher prices for eco-friendly packaging.

A YouGov study found that 46% of people in the UK feel guilty about the amount of plastic they are using and they are motivated to make serious changes such as paying more for alternatives to single-use plastics. So, if consumers are willing to pay more to tackle this crisis then let’s all follow suit!

Enter Morrisons, the UK supermarket saviour! Recently Morrisons announced it is set to become the first British supermarket to roll-out ‘bag-less’ fruit and veg across many of its stores. This is a fantastic move in the right direction as fruit and veg is reportedly the most popular supermarket aisle where shoppers are trying to reduce their purchase of single-use plastics.

Brighter futures here we come!

Half of the plastic we manufacture is used just once and sometimes it’s only used only for a few seconds before we throw it away. What a waste!

So many people are appealing to the Government to phase-out single-use plastics by 2025 not 2042, and we stand by you all!



We designed our reusable bottles, tumblers, straws and canisters to help reduce the amount of single-use plastic thrown away every year.