NEWS: 'Invisible plastic' home study

The average person has 473kg of plastic in their possession - with the average household having 1,136 kg, the equivalent weight of a small car.

Researchers at the University of Exeter Business School’s plastics research hub have created a tool that calculates household plastic use.

The plastics were mostly found in white goods, vehicles, textiles and building products such as windows.

The Exeter Multidisciplinary Plastics Research Hub estimated how much ‘invisible plastic’ is in our homes, as well as the amount of plastic materials coming in as products and leaving homes as waste each year.

Using a combination of national statistics and surveys, industry reports, academic research and proprietary information, they were then able to calculate our household direct plastic footprint.

Plastic waste per person was estimated at 70kg, with packaging from items such as soft drinks and dairy products accounting for around a third.

The researchers also calculated recycling rates when all plastic waste in everything, including buildings, vehicles, electronics and textiles, is considered – for the South West this was estimated at four per cent.

“A good, quantitative understanding of household stocks and the flows of plastics in and out of the home is the basis to designing a better, future circular economy for plastics,” said Dr Xiaoyu Yan.

“Public concerns and calls for action have often advocated plastic-free futures or avoidance and reduction in items such as plastic bags. But while these are hugely important they can disguise many other sources and uses of plastics that pervade everyday life, such as household white goods, vehicles, textiles and building products such as windows.

“Our recycling figures look striking because most of the focus is on packaging as far as plastics are concerned. But our estimates include all plastic waste in everything, such as buildings, vehicle, electronics and textiles. People tend not to realise there are actually a lot of plastics in these other things too!”

Professor Peter Hopkinson, Co-Director of ECCE, said: “Plastic consumption in the UK is forecast to increase 50% by 2030.

"Reducing our plastic consumption will require major investments, networks for change involving all stakeholders and transformation in future system design."

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