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Plastic Bottle Waste in the UK


RECOUP (RECycling of Used Plastics Limited) has calculated that UK households use 13 billion plastic bottles a year, including beverage bottles, milk bottles and toiletries bottles. (2017 RECOUP) Most plastic bottles are made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) whilst milk and toiletries bottles are more usually made from HDPE (high density polyethylene). We heard that, of the 13 billion plastic bottles used each year, 7.7 billion are plastic water bottles. Consumption of water in plastic bottles has doubled in the last 15 years according to the #OneLess Campaign. The average person in the UK will use 150 plastic water bottles every year. In London, usage is 175 plastic water bottles per person per year (#OneLess Campaign)


In the UK, 5.5 billion plastic bottles escape household recycling collection every year. They are littered, landfilled or incinerated. Of these bottles, 55% (approximately 3 billion) are incinerated and 45% (approximately 2.5 billion) are landfilled every year. The waste hierarchy, ranks waste disposal methods according to their impact on the environment, incineration is the second worst waste management process and landfill is the worst. Eunomia Research and Consulting told us that landfill and incineration of plastic bottles produces approximately 233,000 tonnes of CO2e emissions a year.

The number of times an average glass milk bottle is reused (known as trippage) is actually around 20 but it can be as much as 50 times. Overall that makes re-usable milk bottles a more energy-efficient choice than disposable plastic. When a milk bottle becomes too scuffed or damaged to reuse, it’s recycled. Glass can be recycled indefinitely. 


The average glass milk bottle in the UK has about 35% recycled glass in it – although it can depend how much recycled glass is available. Which is a reminder that the more glass we all recycle, the more recycled glass gets used, and the more energy is saved.

Doorstep delivery only stands at around 3% of the liquid market and while it still remains a favourite with millions of consumers we can do better. If we can increase that percentage we can help turn the tide on plastic waste in the UK.


If we all take small steps we can make big changes.


To find your local milkman visit -

Or find your nearest milk refill station -

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