trash audit

Top 3 binned plastic items

Let’s talk trash

The world is drowning in ever-growing mounds of garbage. According to the Everyday Plastic report, people in the UK throw away around 295 billion plastic pieces every year. The Environmental Protection Agency found that the average American throws away 2kg of garbage a day, 13kg a week or 726 kg a year. The 2kg is only individual household weight and does not include industrial or commercial trash. 

Let’s take a moment to multiply these staggering figures by the number of people worldwide and the crazy reports of illegal trash exports around the world. When we throw something “away”, whether it ends up on our soil or a foreign land, it is going somewhere.

 We need to put pressure on our governments to consider the environment and:

  • phase out non-essential single-use plastic
  • tackle trickier plastics

It can feel that our leaders have their own monetary agenda, and to take matters into our own hands, which is why many choose to go more plastic free. To help us achieve this, let’s uncover what it is that we are throwing away, what are the main items?

Reviewing our trash via a bin audit

Yesterday, we took part in a bin audit, where we had a good rummage in our trash to see what our top plastic items were. As we usually chuck waste away without much thought, it’s a good moment to pause and reflect on what we are throwing “away”. Today, we will make a note of the top 3 items, so we can research ways to reduce them. 


I’m currently staying at my parent’s in a shared household (3 families under one roof) in Brighton as my flat in London is under construction. Amelie, ten years old, and I decided to check out their family’s rubbish bin. We left the recycling and focussed on the landfill bin. The bin is only two days old, so there was not a lot, but certainly, enough for us to get a general idea of the top items of plastic going to landfill. As it is freezing and gets dark early in the UK, we chose a place inside with tiles where we could easily clean the floor. Then we laid out the plastic items to inspect what we have inside the bin. 

Our top binned plastic items 

The majority of the plastic packaging came from food waste. In the case of this audit, we found the following to be our top 3:

  1. Sweets and snacks
  2. Fruit and veg wrappers
  3. Washing tablet covers

Food packaging and online orders were the main items that most people fed back as their top contenders. 

How to take a trash audit even further

If you didn’t feel like you could get a clear enough understanding of your general trash or top binned items from today, feel free to extend the bin audit even further. A longer time frame will help give you a real sense of what you are throwing away. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Step up the time period. Keep analysing throwaway trash for one week, one month – longer?
  • Keep scrap paper next to your bin and write down everything that you throw away. 
  • Keep your whole trash for the entire time of doing the challenge to assess if there’s any reduction.

Going more plastic free is not about shame or guilt or avoiding essential plastic items in your life. Use the audit to help you understand your waste. That’s why this blog is called “aim”, not “I am”. It’s about having conscious goals to work towards and celebrating the victories. 

What can we learn from this?

By figuring out what our highest ranking plastic waste is we can make a reduction. If we are not aware of what we are throwing away, it’s very hard to make any changes. A bin audit helps us to understand where we are on a plastic free journey. 

“Definitely eye-opening – realised how much packaging I throw away from fruit and veg. Going to check out Brixton market for fruit and ordered an at-home fresh veg box”

-Julia, London, UK after doing Day 2 of the challenge.

What did you find to be the top items on your bin audit? Did anything surprise you? Let me know in the comments below.

Mia Hadrill
  • Sam

    03/01/2021 at 2:54 pm

    All the accumulative fruit and veg plastic wrapping is so surprising when you count it all up ! – Bin audit is certainly an eye opener!

    • Mia Hadrill

      03/01/2021 at 8:50 pm

      Thanks for sharing. Fruit and veg packaging seems to be the top. I buy my fruit and veg from a local market stall. They separate all of the different types into full bowls, selling for £1 or 50p. I bring a tote bag and tip the bowls of varying produce loose into my large tote. I use an extra net bag for items like mushrooms cherry tomatoes. Most customers next to me, bring a large shopping bag. The stall supplies a small plastic bag to tip each bowl into before putting into the shoppers carry bag. I understand protecting soft or messy vegetables. What I don’t understand is why there seems to be a fear of vegetables, especially root veg’s, touching each other?

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