Single-use. Is the 2018 word of the year the new taboo?

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 7 November 2018

An independent study commissioned by Sky Ocean Rescue has found that nearly six in 10 Brits believe single-use plastic will become a social taboo by 2021.

Plastic bottle pile
© Bo Eide / Wildscreen Exchange

It’s great that ‘single-use’ is word of the year as it shows just how much the impact of plastic on our marine environment is now in the public psyche

Dr Chris Tuckett,
MCS Director of Programmes

The research has been revealed on the day the Collins English Dictionary announced ‘single-use’ is the 2018 Word of the Year.

The Sky Ocean-commissioned research also revealed that seven in 10 think single use plastics should carry cigarette style warning labels whilst almost three quarters of those questioned have reduced the amount of single use plastics they use over the last year.

It also suggested that swigging from a single-use plastic water bottle will soon become as unacceptable as smoking, with consumers supporting use of tobacco packet shock tactics to drive change.

Collins Dictionary lexicographers named single-use the word of the year, after a four-fold rise in its use over five years – which they suggest is down to widespread news coverage.

But despite the increased awareness boosted by programmes like BBC1s Blue Planet II and the Sky Ocean rescue coverage and campaigns, many people still use single use plastic items without a second thought because they’re so much a part of our daily lives. Almost two thirds (64%) of those questioned admitted to still buying or accepting single use plastics multiple times a week.

Four in 10 (42%) say they now feel embarrassed being spotted with single use plastic items and almost a third (29%) have even called others out for using these disposable items.

Whilst there may be a willingness amongst Brits to give up plastic, many find it difficult to ditch their habits of a lifetime and feel they need more support in helping them go plastic free.

Elsewhere in the Sky Ocean Rescue study, just 33% say supermarkets are helping them to reduce their plastic use, a figure which drops to 18% for restaurants and cafes, 12% for online retailers and 11% for independent shops. Over a third (36%) say that none of these are doing their part and feel that businesses need to be doing more to help their customers reduce single use plastic.

But. with our oceans increasingly polluted with plastic, seven in 10 Brits say they would support drastic action in the form of warning labels, such as those seen on tobacco products, placed on common single use plastic items, including plastic bottles, coffee cups, bags, straws and cutlery.

Dr Chris Tuckett, MCS Director of Programmes, says: “It’s great that ‘single-use’ is word of the year as it shows just how much the impact of plastic on our marine environment is now in the public psyche. But it would be even better if it became a word that we rarely used because the problem of single use plastic was solved. Awareness is raised, now we now need to see action from governments, industry, business and consumers. Only by working together and taking some difficult decisions will we start solve the plastic crisis.”

Actions you can take

  1. View the Sky Ocean Rescue news video