Statistics can be wobbly and there will be discrepancies between reports but even bearing that in mind it is obvious we are making a great deal of plastic rubbish most of which we are not recycling. And our use of plastic is increasing every year.

Since the 1950s, one billion tons of plastic have been discarded.

During the first year, sales of Coca-Cola averaged nine drinks a day, adding up to total sales for that year of $50. Today, products of The Coca-Cola Company are consumed at the rate of more than 1.8 billion drinks per day.FAQs: The Coca-Cola Company


Each UK household produces over 1 tonne of rubbish annually, amounting to about 31 million tonnes for the UK each year.

How much of the is plastic? And how much is recycled?

In October 2006 when I started my plastic boycott I saved all my plastic for a week. The amounts of waste we, a fairly green couple, produced was worrying.

British consumers got through nine billion pints of milk last year. 90% of that milk was bought in a plastic container.

2015 and Recycle now states the average UK household uses 480 plastic bottles a year but only recycles 270 of them – meaning nearly half (44%) are NOT put in the recycling.

Wrap state

Around 40% of plastic is used in packaging and the UK generates around 2.4 million tonnes per year of packaging waste. Of this, around 1.7 million tonnes is from households.

In the UK we currently recycle around 50% of plastic bottles and just 12-15% of mixed plastics, so there is still progress to be made.
The Guardian writes Of the 1.5m tonnes of recyclable plastic waste used by consumers in Britain in 2015 only 500,000 tonnes was recycled, according to the figures compiled by Co-op from the Recoup UK Household Plastics Collection survey. 

Recycle More  estimate that nearly 1.2 million tonnes of plastics packaging are consumed by households in the UK (source:recoup)
From this 1.2 million tonnes, it is reported that 440,401 tonnes is collected for recycling – an overall 37% recycling rate (source:recoup)

The Recycling Guide states that most families throw away about 40kg of plastic per year, which could otherwise be recycled.

  • They also claim that
  • The use of plastic in Western Europe is growing about 4% each year.
  • Plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose.

2011 Government Statistics for the UK – rather different story – but still not good.

Plastic 2,515,809 Total packaging waste arising (tonnes) 609,910 Total recovered/recyled (tonnes) 22.5 EU Target (%) 24.2 Recovery/recycling rate (%)


RECycling Of Used Plastics Limited (RECOUP) is a registered charity and not-for-profit member based organisation. RECOUP works in collaboration with all stakeholders to promote, develop, stimulate and increase the levels of plastics recycling within the UK.

Their latest survey can be downloaded here

Some Solutions

Find plastic free products here


See what everyone else is throwing away. This is only the briefest of outlines to illustrate the scale of the problem. It doesn’t matter who throws more but that we all get on cleaning our own back yards.

Planet Trash – A page of images showing  plastic pollution the world over plus one of the biggest list of anti plastic groups on Facebook.
You can find a full list of places featured here.


Plastics consumption is growing about 4% every year in western Europe.

We produce and use 20 times more plastic today than we did 50 years ago!


In 2010, Americans created  31 million tons of plastic waste. It consisted of

  • 14 million tons of containers and packaging,
  • 11 million tons as durable goods, such as appliances,
  • 7 million tons as non-durable goods, for example plates and cups.

(ermmm that makes 32million tons?…)

Only 8 percent of the total plastic waste generated in 2010 was recovered for recycling.

  • Only 12% of bags, sacks, and wraps were recycled

These figures are from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency who go on to note

“The recycling rate for different types of plastic varies greatly, resulting in an overall plastics recycling rate of only 8 percent, or 2.4 million tons in 2010. However, the recycling rate for some plastics is much higher, for example in 2010, 28 percent of HDPE bottles and 29 percent of PET bottles and jars were recycled”.

According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, Americans bought a total of 31.2 billion liters of water in 2006, Most of this water was sold in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, requiring nearly 900,000 tons of the plastic and more than 106 billion megajoules of energy.


Californias governing body have this to say “In the United States, consumers use 100 billion plastic bags annually, but fewer than 5 percent of plastic bags are recycled, which means they eventually end up in landfills, open spaces, or waterways.

  • Californians use an estimated 12 billion plastic bags annually. That’s almost 400 bags per second.
  • In California, approximately 247 million pounds—that’s 24 billion bags!—end up in landfills every year.
  • California spends approximately $25 million annually to landfill discarded plastic bags. Public agencies in California spend more than $300 million annually for litter abatement.”


 13 billion plastic carrier bags are used in the UK each year. Shoppers worldwide are using approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year.


This fantastic collection of photos shows what people eat in a week the world over. Humbling? yes…but also check out the packaging! Way to go Japan!


The problem with plastic waste,  is that plastic doesn’t  biodegrade. There are no natural processes in place that can absorb plastic back into the biological cycle. Drop it and leave it, as  with an apple core say, and rather than rot away, it stays there…for decades, maybe centuries, possibly for ever.

So it has to be specially disposed of. It has to be collected up and specially treated. Either burnt or buried or, in very small amounts, recycled.

And we are using this product to make one use throwaway items.

The result? Everlasting litter! That’s just dumb.

Yet simply by saying no to unneccessary plastic, you can cut your pile of trash almost completely.


Find other rubbish statistics here

Cut Your Trash


Find plastic free products and lifestyle hacks here

Plastic Is Rubbish–  group, join, share, rant, post. A resource for plastic less living. As the interest in zero waste and plastic free living grows we need a space to pool resources  – especially in the U.K. where we don’t have bulk stores and finding unpackaged produce is so much harder. I hope that people will use it to share plastic free info and lifestyle hacks. Join us here.

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5 thoughts on “Plastic Trash By Country

  1. Pingback: Filthy Mayhem in India–Cars, Lorries and Weddings by Graham Peebles – Dandelion Salad

  2. Thanks for dropping by and reblogging. I will be adding more awful statistics as I find them! Yes, even if developing countries do produce less plastic waste, and as you say that is hard to confirm, they also have less resources to deal with it so plastic pollution is far more evident. Very very sad.

  3. Most governments in third world countries don’t know how much garbage is created daily. We are trying to get some sense into one African economy: So far the questions have not been answered as to how much Plastic waste is actually produced each day. I have been given a figure in-comprehensive.
    Total waste combined has been named as 1,200 tons a day, or 36 tons a month, out of which 5.6 % supposedly is made of combined plastic ( 3 layer BOPP sachets, PET bottles, HM, HDPE, LDPE, and PVC.
    If this figure is accurate ( which I doubt ) then we have an annual plastic waste generation of 2,016 MT a month.
    This figure is very doubtful.
    There is no effective waste management in place, and as such most of the plastic bags end up washed up on beaches.. A horrible sight on the Island.
    It seems that we are doomed.

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