A quantitative study to investigate people's awareness of plastic pollution and their preventative actions

  • Katie McGee
Keywords: plastic, microplastic, nano plastic, recycling, survey


As the world now produces 280 tons of plastics per year, plastic pollution is an ever-growing global problem.  Plastic materials are constantly ending up in oceans from both land and sea-based sources, or in landfill. Although plastics are lightweight and durable once they enter the ocean or freshwater bodies, oceanic wildlife are at risk of entanglement or death from ingestion. As plastic does not biodegrade in nature, it is extremely difficult to eradicate.  Plastic photodegrades naturally, causing plastic to split into smaller pieces which makes ingestion easier for aquatic animals. This study reports the findings of a small-scale survey to understand people’s awareness of plastic pollution and their preventative actions.  This study used convenience sampling with 347 participants who undertook an online questionnaire, to gather data on how many of them recycled, why they recycled and any limitations they faced. In 2018, the UK rate for recycling waste from households was 45%, according to the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (2020).  Study findings highlighted that as age increased so did the rate of recycling, with 100% of those aged 50+ years stating they recycle every day compared to 61% of 16–18-year-olds.  Both male and female’s awareness of plastic pollution was the same (85% of both were aware) which indicated there were no gender differences. This research also found that 37% of females and 31% of males strongly agreed they could recycle more which shows that although participants generally recycle there is still room for improvement. This research found that the main limitation for participants not recycling was because they were not aware of what materials could be recycled. The researcher felt that an educational approach to combat this, such as leaflets would benefit all age ranges. The study highlights the need for more research surrounding the effects plastic has on human health to fill knowledge gaps with a bigger sample, to decrease any bias.