We all know that the world as a whole is producing a huge amount of plastic waste each year.
But how much plastic does the average individual use in a day?
There are two main ways to look at this question:
- Plastic packaging waste thrown away directly (what you put in the bin each day)
- The overall per capita plastic waste (including waste from industry and fishing, which we are indirectly responsible for)
To try to answer this question, we’ll look at both approaches and then bring them together to summarise things at the end.
The answer to this question also depends a lot on where you live—wealthier countries tend to produce more plastic waste.
How Much Plastic Does the Average Person Throw Away Each Day?
Data from Everyday Plastic report suggests that the UK throws away 295 billion pieces of plastic a year, which would work at around 12 pieces per person per day.
This report was produced by “average British bloke” Daniel Webb and geoscientist Dr. Julie Schneider.
In 2017, Webb collected every piece of plastic he would have otherwise thrown away for an entire year.
The total was 4,490 pieces, which extrapolated to the whole UK population would equal 295 billion pieces of plastic a year.
A ‘piece’ could be a milk bottle cap, the seal, or the bottle itself. Lots of items are composed of several plastic pieces.
93% of plastic waste was single-use packaging, 67% was from food and 47% was made from unrecyclable plastic film. 70% of the plastic thrown away wasn’t recyclable in 2017.
Daniel Webb produced 29 kg of plastic waste over the course of the year (79 g a day), while Dr. Julie Schneider produced 34.4 kg (94 g a day).
These figures are close to estimates of European averages. According to European Union figures, the average EU citizen produces 31 kg of plastic packaging per year, or 85 g of plastic packaging waste per person per day.
How Much Plastic Is Used Per Capita in a Day?
According to data from this study published in Science, the UK produces 215 g of plastic waste per day per person.
This data looked at plastic waste in total, including waste from industry, agriculture, fishing and so on.
Therefore, this doesn’t mean that each of us is actually physically throwing 215 g of plastic waste in the bin each day.
To visualise how much plastic 215 grams is, here is how you would get to that weight if you just used one product all day:
- 22 plastic bottles – A 500-ml water bottle weighs 10 grams. 215 grams would be the equivalent of about 22 plastic bottles.
- 39 plastic shopping bags – A plastic shopping bag weighs 5.5 grams, so our daily plastic waste would be the equivalent of about 39 plastic bags.
Here are daily plastic usage figures from some other countries for comparison:
- United States – 335 g per person per day
- China – 121 g per person per day
- India – 10 g per person per day
These figures are from 2010, so the figure in 2019 could be quite different. The original figures are unlikely to be 100% accurate, but are a useful rough guide.
To summarise, the best data we could find suggests the following:
- The average person in the UK throws away 85 g of plastic packaging waste day. This is composed of 12 separate pieces of plastic.
- The UK produces 215 g of plastic waste per person per day. This includes all waste from businesses, industry and agriculture as well as what you physically throw away yourself.
Read our guide to reducing your plastic use for some tips on using less!