Impact of Single-Use Plastics on Marine Life
Info: 8227 words (33 pages) Dissertation
Published: 12th Dec 2019
The ocean is beautiful, full of colour and life…
…or at least it should be.
Today, our oceans are polluted by plastic put there by us. Marine life is being choked by it, we are swimming in it and our beaches are covered in it. Over the years, plastic pollution has increased so much that it is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish.
As someone who has always been fascinated by the sea and the life within it, learning that my habits were affecting it made me want to make a change. I decided to look into what I could do to reduce my plastic waste, so I switched to using canvas tote bags for shopping and bought a reusable metal water bottle, but I still struggle to avoid contact with plastic on a daily basis. It’s clear how much of a problem plastic pollution is becoming, and since Blue Planet 2 and all the media coverage on the news I feel like I have been noticing references to it everywhere, they even showed plastic in the ocean in Finding Dory. That’s how common it is to find plastic in the sea today. Because of this, companies such as Iceland have pledged to go plastic free, while Waitrose has recently planned to remove disposable cups from their stores, which they hope will help to reduce the amount of plastic packaging waste.
If we want to see our oceans clean and full of life once again, we need to find solutions to help solve this problem.
Single-use plastic is having a massive impact on our environment. Plastic pollution is one of the main issues facing our planet at the moment. Plastic is entering our oceans at an alarming rate, and it is endangering marine life, and affecting us. Once plastic waste in our oceans gets broken down, it can easily be eaten by Marine life and end up in our food chain. Last year, scientists at Ghent University in Belgium did a study, where they found that people who ate shellfish were eating up to 11,000 pieces of plastic a year (Smillie, 2017), while the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), which is used to make plastic flexible and strong, was found in 86% of teenagers’ digestive systems after research was conducted by the University of Exeter, (Williams, 2018). We buy so many items that come packaged in plastic today, and half of what we buy doesn’t really need the packaging it comes in, an example of this is fruit and vegetables. The problem with a lot of pre-packaged items is that we can’t even reuse the plastic wrapping after we have taken it off the product, so we just throw it in the bin. The same goes for plastic shopping bags, straws and bottles – some of which we use for less than an hour. This is the reason that plastic is polluting our seas, we are throwing so much of it away.
We are trying to make a change by showing the damaging effects that plastic is having through documentaries, photos and campaigns, but the shock factor that many of these images are using by showing us suffocating or dead marine animals isn’t working. The reason behind this is that shock tactics have been used so many times before for various advertisements, such as smoking and animal abuse, that people have become accustomed to them. The theory behind shock tactics no longer working as well as they used to when it comes to advertising, is that people have heard of all the problems before and now just ignore the advertisements instead. Another problem is that we don’t really know where our rubbish ends up, and we often don’t think about it either. Once it’s in the bin, it’s out of sight and then it’s out of our minds, but the problem is there is no away.
In this report, I will be looking into the problems Marine life and our oceans are facing because of our plastic waste, and how it is affecting us. I will also be exploring the different strategies that can be used to reduce plastic waste, by reusing and repurposing it, which provides a way for us to produce no waste at all. Additionally, looking into how education on where our rubbish ends up can help us to understand how our waste is having an impact, even when we don’t live by the sea.
Our Oceans are Plastic Now
The ocean is where life began. We are all connected to it. Without the ocean we would not be here, as Sylvia A. Earle explains in her book A Message of The Oceans: ‘It doesn’t matter where on earth you live, everyone is utterly dependant on the existence of that lovely, living saltwater soup. There’s plenty of water in the universe without life, but nowhere is there life without water.’ (Earle, S. A. 1996)
Although it depends on where we are in the world for the dependence we have on plastic, we are living in a time where plastic and single-use plastic in particular makes up a part of almost every product that we use in our daily lives. Facts from Domenic Lippa’s book 250 Facts & Figures state that the UK gets through 13 billion plastic water bottles a year – more than 200 per person; while the US throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. (Lippa, D.) That’s just the UK and the US, if we think about the whole world and the plastic items that they throw away each day, that’s a shocking amount of plastic waste. The demand for it is continuing to grow, in the last ten years we’ve made more plastic that we did in the century before us. The main reason that plastic is so popular within products ranging from food containers, to vacuum cleaners and the iPad is its durability. However, when it comes to big brands like Apple and Dyson, durability isn’t the only thing they think of when creating their products. They also know that creating a product that has an artificial lifespan will create more sales for them, this theory is called planned obsolescence. If we think back to the first mobile phone, the lifespan of it was undoubtedly longer than they are now. You could drop a Nokia phone numerous times and it would rarely ever break, but an iPhone or Samsung today can shatter from the smallest of falls. Knowing this, brands can rely on the fact that we’re all going to need a new phone, or a new vacuum cleaner once a bit breaks off or the screen cracks.
Plastic is a brilliant material, there’s no question about that. It’s better than other materials because it is cheaper, stronger and can be used for just about anything. It’s a popular choice for so many things today because of this, although using it for single-use items has come with a price. Because it is so durable, it takes longer to degrade than other materials, in some cases, plastic never really goes away. We could solve this by turning to plant-based materials instead, which the company Biome Bioplastics have started to look into. They have developed compostable and recyclable cups made out of completely natural materials, with the aim of reducing single-use plastic waste. The argument against using ‘greener’ materials, however, is that it is more expensive to do. In reality, as long as plastic is cheaper to make, does the job, and keeps creating money and demand in the oil industry, plant-based alternatives will not be chosen unless they start to become a more popular option over plastic with consumers. As Sylvia Earle says, ‘it is difficult not to be impressed with the characteristics of plastics. They are light, strong, durable, corrosion resistant, versatile and in-expensive, compared to alternatives.’ (Earle, S. A. 1996) However, these qualities that make plastic products so great for us is what’s causing such a widespread problem in our oceans.
So just how bad is it? Well, in 1997 Captain Charles Moore discovered the North Pacific Garbage Patch. This garbage patch is made up of plastic debris and has formed in the middle of the North Pacific Gyre. A gyre is like a slow whirlpool made up of currents. Because all of our oceans are connected and constantly moving, the plastic debris ends up in gyres like the North Pacific one and just keeps growing in size.
The other problem is that ocean debris doesn’t stay in these gyres, it will also find its way to our shorelines, creating litter beaches around the world on a daily basis. One fact suggests that there is 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of the ocean, (LIppa, 2017). The majority of this plastic will never sink.
Not all plastic is the problem here though. The main plastic debris that is found in the ocean comes from single use items like plastic bottles and bags.
It is thought that only 20 percent of litter in the ocean originates from sea based activities such as fishing and sailing. The rest comes from poor waste management practices on land and irresponsible littering by people (Knight, 2013). The problem is that we often don’t think about where that water bottle or that straw we used for about five minutes is going to end up, once we have chucked it in the bin. If our rubbish is out of sight, it’s out of our minds. In reality, we need to think and learn more about where it’s actually ending up.
Recently, some food and drinks companies have started to change the materials they are using to try and reduce plastic waste. In 2017, Weatherspoon’s phased out their single-use straws by only giving them out when they were asked for, and not buying in anymore. Eventually, getting rid of them all and replacing them with paper straws. The downside to paper straws, however, is that they quickly get very wet and disintegrate – it’s not the greatest drinking experience. Noticing this, other companies have now started to use reusable metal straws instead, they’re cold but it definitely makes drinking a drink with a straw a lot easier. Iceland have also pledged to become the first plastic-free supermarket by 2023, by using only paper and pulp trays that can all be recycled after use, or can be brought back in-store to be recycled if it’s easier for people. Following Iceland, every major supermarket has also now pledged to remove single-use plastic from their stores by 2025. This comes from an agreement with Wrap, a waste charity that is backed by the government. Other companies that are aiming to stop using single-use plastic include Nestlé, Coca‑Cola and Bird’s Eye.
Since Blue Planet 2 in 2017, there has been a rise in companies reducing the amount of single-use plastic that they use and give out to customers. We are now seeing zero waste strategies coming into place in retail and food and drink, as well as zero waste pop up shops happening around the UK.
The problem is that we see plastic as convenient. Plastic bags are convenient because we can just throw them away once we’re done with them, and they’re also cheaper to make for stores than a stronger material one. Bottles for drinks are convenient because plastic won’t break if someone accidently drops it. It’s also a cheaper material to use for the companies and manufacturers.
If we think about it, do we really need as much plastic on products as we have? It’s not just bags and bottles, vegetables alone are all covered in plastic in supermarkets, for protection and to keep them fresher. Do they really need protecting? If they get dropped, the plastic packaging isn’t going to effectively protect them from a dent. As for keeping them fresher, sometimes it seems that all the plastic packaging does is make them go off quicker. In reality, half of the items we use that are plastic or have plastic packaging aren’t needed, or could be packaged in different, more environmentally friendly materials.
The truth is we need to reduce the amount of single-use plastic that we are using, and that can be done through our own actions, and companies taking it upon themselves to change the materials they are using. Marine life is enduring plastic in the oceans every day because of our habits and convenience, and it’s shocking to see and know what they are going through because of our plastic waste. The majority of us will have seen the horrible images of turtles whose shells have become miss-shaped because of six-pack can holders by now and turtles also face the problem of mistakenly eating plastic bags because they cannot tell the difference between them and jellyfish. Seals become entangled in discarded fishing nets and cannot escape, while sea birds eat so much plastic that they cannot digest, making them feel full for so long that they do not eat any more food and eventually starve. Because so much marine life is eating plastic, it is now in our food chain as well.
The challenge of cleaning up our oceans and stopping plastic pollution has to start with the consumer. There needs to be a change in consumer behaviour when it comes to using single use plastic. One theory that suggests a way to change behaviours is through the ‘nudging’ technique. This technique is based on the fact that we are rational thinkers, but are often nudged into a decision that is not rational anymore. By changing this technique around and using it to help consumers make the rational decision by nudging them in the better direction, it can help change current consumer behaviours in a positive way. Professor Richard Thaler, the prime developer of the theory, argues that laws should be designed to help consumers make better decisions (Côté, M.). A current example of this is the plastic bottle deposit scheme that’s recently been introduced, encouraging shoppers to deposit their used plastic bottles so that they can receive cashback when they do. Another example, that is completely unrelated to plastic, is flies being etched into men’s urinals at Amsterdam Airport. The flies were part of an experiment to see if it would improve spillage, and it worked. As Professor Thaler said “Men evidently like to aim at targets.”
Another theory is that we are all creatures of habit. If we think about it, we take the same journey home every day without a second thought. However, at one time in our lives, it was completely brand new to us. So, somewhere down the line, our brains figured out which way we always went and it became a routine: now something that we just instinctively know without having to give it a thought. This process – on which the brain converts a sequence of actions into an automatic routine – is known as “chunking” and it’s at the root of how habits form (Duhigg, 2012). When it comes to our buying habits, especially at the supermarket, we all have products that we automatically pick up, and it’s the same for brands, we automatically will shop at them if we’ve made it part of our routine. Going shopping and being given a plastic carrier bag for our purchases is just part of a routine. It would be strange for us if we didn’t have the option automatically. When the 5p charge came in on plastic bags, a lot of us didn’t understand it at first. It’s only 5p, but why should we have to pay that much for a bag that’s always been free and automatically given to us? Because people didn’t want to pay 5p every time they went shopping, they started to save and reuse any bags that they had already or purchased tote bags and bags for life. The introduction of the charge created a change in our habits. It changed our behaviours. Whether we’ve realised that or not is another thing entirely. It just goes to show that although we are clearly creatures of habit, we can change them.
Plastic has many benefits when it comes to certain products, but since Blue Planet 2 we have started to realise the problems that come with it and the disastrous consequences it can have on our planet and marine life. Blue Planet 2 managed to have an impact on its viewers within the final episode when it showed the problems our oceans are facing because of us. It managed to have such an impact on its viewers because it showed the beauty of the ocean and the life within it, and then ended on how human impact is affecting it, and causing harm to the marine life. Since it aired, we have started to see a change in companies and retailers reducing the amount of plastic packaging they are using and changing the materials for some single-use plastic items.
However, as consumers we still do not fully understand how our rubbish can have such a serious effect on our oceans once we have thrown it away, especially if we don’t live anywhere near the ocean. It is easy to understand when you live somewhere in the middle of the UK with no beaches for miles, yet somehow there’s plastic we’ve thrown away in a gyre in the North Pacific Ocean or on a beach in Bali. Clearly a way to try and solve the problem of how much plastic we are using and throwing away is through changing consumer behaviour, but is it enough? No. More education is also needed, on how our plastic ends up in the ocean, as well as changing our habits.
Trash Talk – Do we really know where our rubbish ends up?
We’re living in a throwaway society, we throwaway almost everything. Plastic bags, cups, clothes, it’s so easy to do, and we don’t really understand where our disposed of waste is ending up. Yes, we recycle, or at least we say we do and there’s plenty of ways we can recycle, but do we really know why we should or what happens if we don’t?
With Blue Planet 2 and Sky News Ocean Rescue showing us the damage that plastic is having on our oceans and marine life, we’re well aware that we need to reduce our plastic waste as much as possible, but do we all need to think about it to the same extent? We don’t all live by a beach after all. The truth is that it doesn’t matter where we live. Our waste is ending up in the oceans. The problem is that we don’t know how, and if we don’t know how it’s getting there, how can we fully take it upon ourselves to reduce our plastic footprint?
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
When we throw anything away, we don’t really give it another thought at all. It’s in the bin, it’s no longer our problem. The reason we don’t give it much thought is because it is part of our routine. We know we have to put the bins out if we want our rubbish to be taken away. Maybe if we had to take our rubbish to a skip or landfill ourselves then we might notice what it is we are throwing away more. Instead we take the bins out when they need to be collected, and when we bring them back in, our rubbish is gone. Once our rubbish has been picked up by the bin men, they take it to a landfill site, to join the rest the growing hills of waste. The problem with that is that any plastic waste we’ve thrown away can still escape into the environment, especially plastic bags that can get picked up by the wind. Another issue with what we throw away is that we don’t all know what can be recycled and what can’t. Some plastic packaging currently isn’t recycled at all, so what does it matter if it goes into the green recycling bin or the normal waste one. According to an article by Greenpeace, in 2017 just 9% of plastics were recycled, and the rest went to landfill or got burnt (Casson, 2017).
Another way that plastic is entering our oceans is through litter on our streets. Litter that doesn’t get picked up and put in the bin, or disposed of properly can get carried by the wind and rain into drains in cities and towns, or rivers in the countryside. Our drainage systems and rivers often connect to the ocean, and any litter that has been carried through them will also end up in the sea. Major rivers around the world carry an estimated 1.15-2.41 million tons of plastic into the sea every year – that’s up to 100,000 rubbish trucks (Casson, 2017). One of the main plastic waste that ends up in our drainage systems are sanitary products, make-up wipes and cotton buds. Our facewashes and cosmetic products are also having an impact through microbeads. In 2016, the UK pledged to ban microbeads from cosmetic products, and in 2018 this ban has come into effect. Microbeads are often used to exfoliate which is why they have been popular in facewashes and other cosmetic products, but once they’ve been washed off and go down the drain they add to the plastic pollution problem in the ocean. Natural exfoliators are now the replacement, and although they have been around for the same amount of time as the ones that used microbeads, they are now more popular since the microbead ban.
Two-thirds of plastic waste in the ocean has come from land based sources (Surfers Against Sewage, n.d.) and as Tanya Streeter explains in A Plastic Ocean (2016) “even if you don’t live near the ocean, chances are your plastic garbage has found its way to the sea.” Once our plastic waste ends up in our oceans it’s not only nice to see, swim in or have washed up on our beaches but it becomes a danger to marine life.
A Plastic Day
Not only do we not fully understand how our plastic waste is ending up in the oceans, we also often don’t realise how much plastic we come into contact with and use on a daily basis. So many of our products are made up of plastic today that we don’t even notice.
When we stop and take a look at how much plastic we are using in a day, it’s quite a shock. On top of that to realise how much we are just putting in normal bins and not recycling, shows how plastic is becoming such a waste problem. Is recycling helping? Not if all we are doing is recycling our single‑use items to create more single-use items, that’s just creating more items that can contribute to the waste. If we find other uses for them, that will last a long time, then it benefits us as well as reducing our plastic waste.
It’s Cool to Upcycle
An example of reusing plastic is how it can be upcycled to make clothing. One clothing brand doing this is EcoAlf. They have currently recycled 70 million plastic bottles, and are reusing them to create garments. Adidas have partnered with Parley for the Oceans to create a new concept shoe with upcycled plastic, (See appendix 4). Parley for the Oceans is a movement that brings together great minds from different industries to help with the ocean plastic pollution. They have been working with Stella McCartney, Adidas and many other brands on ways to repurpose ocean plastic debris within fashion. As Cyril Gutsch, founder of Parley said “we have to redesign the material and question some of the product categories. We want to invent our way out of this.” (2016). Although repurposing plastic is a solution to the issue, not using single-use plastic in the first place is a way to stop the ever increasing plastic pollution problem.
Reuse, Reuse, Reuse
A way that we can reduce our plastic waste is by considering a zero waste lifestyle, or at least parts of one. Zero waste means exactly that. Zero waste. We just reuse items we already have and in turn can help reduce waste going to landfill and reduce the environmental impacts it is having on our planet.
There are many ways we can do this. We can shop more sustainably by only buying items that don’t come in plastic packaging, checking to see what packaging is actually recycled and only buying items that we definitely want, and won’t throw away in less than a year. A lot of us have already started to introduce zero waste solutions into our lives, through using tote bags when we go shopping now, and not buying a plastic bag, as well as using reusable water bottles and coffee cups.
It can be hard when shopping to consider if we really need an item because of what it is packaged in, and on top of that, changing our routines isn’t an easy thing to do, it takes time. However over the last year there has been a rise in zero waste products, because consumers are starting to try and shop more ethically, which is making the change a lot easier. Zero Waste pop up shops are appearing across the UK, allowing people to buy packaging free wholefoods. The stores encourage people to bring their own jars and bags with them, instead of having their items pre-packaged. The aim of them is to help consumers reuse containers they already have in their house, rather than creating more packaging waste. It also allows them to choose their own amounts of food, which is also helping to reduce the amount of food waste that often occurs when products have been pre-packaged.
A lot of companies have started to introduce zero waste strategies. By doing this, they are making it easier for the consumer to change their routines, without them having to put much thought into it. Iceland is an example of this, they are aiming to be the first plastic free supermarket by 2023. They are slowly reducing the plastic they use on their products, making the transition easier for their customers, while becoming a more sustainable brand in the process. Other companies that have started to introduce more sustainable strategies are Pret a Manger and Lush. Pret has started to encourage their customers to bring their own reusable coffee cups with them and offer a 50p discount on hot drinks for anyone who does. While Lush have gone Naked with their packaging on some products, (See appendix 4). The naked range includes shampoo bars and bath bombs. In an Instagram survey 7 people said that they have bought products from the Naked range at Lush and out of those seven people, 5 found the products were good to use. This would suggest that the naked range is successful, (See appendix 3) however to get a true understanding of how successful the products really are a survey would have to be conducted with a larger amount of people.
At the end of the day, the packaging that our products come in, does not affect us on a personal level, we just throw it away when we get home, it’s the product inside that we care about. Considering a zero waste lifestyle is all about changing our habits. We might not be brilliant at it at first but once it become a routine to us, it will just become habit. This refers back to the theory that we are all creatures of habit, as mentioned in the first chapter. An example of this comes from watching Trashed by Jeremy Irons. Near the end of the documentary he goes into a zero waste grocery store, to understand more about it. One of the staff, Catherine Conway mentions that they found with their customers that the “first time they forget, second time they forget, third time they remember one thing. After that it just becomes a new habit.” (Trashed, 2012) By going zero waste we can also start to close the loop on trash. In order to change consumer’s habits, a reward may be needed to give consumers a sense of achievement for changing their habits. Which links to a theory that ‘habits are driven by a cue, a routine and a reward’ (Duhigg, 2012) which create a habit loop. The cue is a trigger in the brain that tells us which habit to use in a situation, then there is the routine, followed by the reward. If the reward is good enough, your brain will store that information and let it become a habit.
Closing the Loop on Trash
Repurposing our waste to create new items is a way that we can close the loop on trash and cut out waste. Closing the loop, is part of the theory that we could become a circular economy. Becoming a part of a circular economy means that we will no longer take, make and throw away all the time because we would cut out the throw away from the system. By doing this we would be able to minimise the negative impacts that our throwaway society has on our planet. Instead we would start to redesign what we no longer needed.
The concept of a circular economy can be applied to all of us, and to businesses. As individuals we can adopt zero waste lifestyles, and repurpose what we already have, and businesses can start to implement strategies that reduce their waste. Coca-Cola have committed to using a system that works in the circular economy. Coca-Cola has said that ‘it’s a way to reduce the amount of resources we use, by reusing them as much as possible and then recycling them back into useable resources whenever we can.’ (Lowe, 2016)
There are possible downsides to the circular economy however. It is thought that a rebound effect could occur because of an increase in production, which could lead to lower priced products, making them more appealing to consumers. A possible solution to this rebound effect however could be to slow down the circular economy system in order to make it more sustainable overall. This could help make ‘an economy that is smaller, both financially and materially.’ (Mulrow, 2017)
A number of businesses have started to introduce ways that they can close the loop. Levis have started to do this with their Waste Less and Water Less collections, which aim to reduce the damage on the environment, waste and consumer waste, while still creating the same great products, while H&M launched their garment collecting initiative in 2013, and since then have collected 55,000 tonnes of garments to give a new life to. They also did a ‘Close the Loop’ campaign back in 2016 with the mission to make fashion more sustainable, and encourage people to recycle their old clothes, although it seemed to be noticed more for being a diverse campaign over the sustainability side of it. H&M says that it believes clothes deserve better than to go to landfill, but there reason behind closing the loop may be to reach a wider consumer, by providing sustainable clothes to those who want it, while still providing fast fashion. Another brand working to close the loop is Patagonia, who are well known for being an environmentally friendly brand, but have now also started to look into ways it can repurpose clothing to close the loop, by including their customers in the process. As they are already a sustainable brand, by closing the loop they are staying true to their ethos and their customers.
With a rise in environmental issues because of consumer habits and industries supplying consumer needs without thinking about the environmental impacts, more awareness and education on where product waste ends up and how it’s harming our planet is needed. Plastic doesn’t have to be the enemy here, we just need to reduce how much single-use plastic we use and throw away, or reuse what we can. Recycling and reusing plastic can help. If we start to think about ways of repurposing single-use plastic items it will work out better for us and our environment. ‘If we designed fridges to last 30 years there would be fewer people working in the fridge industry. But what if we designed fridges to have a second life?’ (Arnold, C.). Closing the loop on our trash can help us start to work towards becoming a circular economy and can help to reduce the human impacts on our environment, without us losing out on anything. It is an option that can work for the long-term, within minimal effects, and it also means that we can have longer lasting products, that are environmentally friendly. It can help us reduce so much waste and can repair the damage that we have done to our planet.
What? The Big Idea
To educate consumers on their plastic waste and provide sustainable solutions to create change.
Why? The Problem
The idea has come from identifying that the shock tactic of showing consumers the deadly effects plastic is having on marine life is creating awareness to the issue, but is not having a direct effect on the consumer. They understand that plastic is harmful, but don’t quite understand what they can do as they don’t know how their rubbish is ending up in the oceans. If we can start to create a change in consumer’s habits by helping them learn about their rubbish and where it goes, we can start to be a part of the change to save the oceans.
Who? The Consumers
The Activist has known about the plastic problem for a while and has already introduced ways to reduce plastic in their lifestyle, if they haven’t gone completely zero waste. They often post on Instagram sharing ways to reuse plastic items or showing the effects plastic waste has on our environment and takes part in beach cleans or environmental activism events when they can. They want to be the change and they want to inspire others to do the same, so they try their best to educate them on the issues that the planet faces because of human impact and other social and political issues in the world.
Job: Founder of the Earthlings Experience
Food: Enjoys exploring London and finding new vegan places to eat and trying out new food, especially vegan alternatives to pizza, ice cream and chocolate
Travel: Loves to get away to different cities and countries around the world and does dog walking to get extra money to go them
Hobbies: Regularly uploads activist videos, sustainability tips and travel adventures on Youtube
Interests: Advocates for other causes as well as veganism through Youtube and Instagram, and gives mention to brands and organisations that are helping with important issues
The Student is aware of current issues in the world and often shares opinions on them, but isn’t always sure what they can directly do to help with issues they care about. They will share the latest news or campaigns on Facebook, and will sign some petitions if they feel it’s something that is important to them. They will also take part in challenges on Instagram or tag their friends in posts if there is a reward for their efforts. They try to reuse water bottles and bags when they can, but often have to get a bag if they’re in town, as they can’t always resist the shops, even if they weren’t intending to buy anything. The majority of the time though they’ll have a tote bag on them to carry university work in or will take a reusable bag for life if they need to run to the local shop to buy the essential food necessities. Most of their plastic waste comes from what they eat and drink, whether it be the bottles of pop they used for a mixer before going out, a takeaway they got afterwards, or on a lazy weekend, or the packaging from their supermarket items. They’re use to recycling at home, or letting their parents sort out their rubbish for them, and would like to recycle more at university if they could, but due to having no access to recycling bins in their accommodation they have to put all their rubbish into one bin.
Shops at: ASOS, Boohoo, Topshop, Topman, Urban Outfitters, Primark, Zara, Vintage
Buys food from: Tesco, Aldi, Asda, Sainsbury’s
Summer: Works full time, so they can afford it. Goes on a family staycation or holiday abroad with their family or friends, and goes on various club nights around England. If they get enough to go to a festival they prefer weekend or day ones like Lost Village, Dot to Dot and Y Not.
Night out with Friends: Bodega, Rock City, Stealth vs Rescued
Drink of choice: Craft beer or a double rum and cola, never a vodka
Spotify Playlist: 3 really random ones
Indie old school, 80’s to now, Arctic Monkeys, Stone Roses, Wolf Alice
UK Hip Hop, Verb T, The Mouse Outfit, Dr Syntax
House/Electro Tainted Love, Blue Monday, New Order, Bicep
Favourite books: Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Supernatural Fantasies, Sci-fi
The Baby Boomer
The Baby Boomer sometimes finds recycling a chore, as they find it hard to always remember what can be recycled and what can’t. When it comes to reusing bags and bottles they agree however, and they do not find taking their own bag shopping with them a hassle, they used to do it when they were younger if they had to go out and buy groceries. They also remember the milk man dropping off milk in glass bottles and reusing what they already had, so a zero waste approach to reducing plastic is not a strange concept to them. However they do not understand the 5p bag charge and find the idea of taking their own coffee cups into places like Costa, Starbucks and Pret annoying. They do like the idea of supermarkets like Iceland going plastic free with packaging though. They get most of their news from news channels on television or through newspapers, and they will tell friends and family about interesting events, innovations and brands.
Shops at: M&S, TKMaxx, Debenhams, Monsoon, and small boutiques
Buys food from: M&S, Morrison’s and Aldi
Summer: Goes on a family holiday to Tenby or Ireland for a week, enjoying a beach day if the weathers nice, exploring the local areas and tourist spots and evening meals out
Typical Weekend: Spending it with the family, local football team winning, and a nice family meal out in the evening. Sunday’s are for church and relaxing in front of the T.V or with a good book
Films and T.V: A good crime drama like Endeavour or Vera, drama and action films, or a good western
Music: The Beatles, Rolling Stones, anything from the 60’s or 70’s
Hobbies: Likes to keep active through walking when they can and occasionally dancing
The Diffusion of Innovation
The Diffusion of Innovation curve shows ‘the time at which an individual adopts an innovation.’ (Rogers, 2003) Each consumer fits into a different category. The early adopters are the ones that the others look to for advice and information, they are the trend setters. They are ‘considered by many to be “the individual to check with” before adopting a new idea.’ (Rogers, 2003) This is why the activist consumer fits into the early adopter category. They already know about plastic pollution and have started to implement solutions into their lifestyles, by going zero waste or avoiding single-use plastic items. They have already started to take part in events that can help to educate others on plastic pollution and provide solutions. They will be the first ones to take an interest in the campaign and share it with others on social media and through word of mouth.
The early majority will usually adopt an idea before other members of society, they ‘interact frequently with their peers but seldom hold positions of opinion leadership.’ (Rogers, 2003) The student consumer falls into this category because they are aware of the situation but do not know what they can always do about it. They want to know more and will share news online about it and sign petitions, they will also take part in plastic free challenges that they can share on Instagram.
The late majority tend to adopt ideas after the others because they can be more sceptical. Their choice in adopting a new idea ‘may be both an economic necessity for the late majority or the result of increasing peer pressures.’ (Rogers) The baby boomer consumer fits into the late majority because they do not always understand how strategies to reduce plastic waste is helping with the problem, such as the 5p bag charge, however they do not have an issue with zero waste strategies, as they can see how it is helping and they don’t use as much plastic as the younger generations. They will take interest in the campaign later, as they will mainly find out about it after the activists and students.
By identifying where each consumer fits on the Diffusion of Innovation curve, it is clear to see that an integrated marketing campaign is the best way to reach each of them at different levels and with different approaches. As the Activist is already aware of the problem and has already started to reduce the amount of plastic in their lives, they will benefit from the education but they do not need as much information to be convinced of the change that needs to happen. They will take more of an influential role, sharing the first campaigns and encouraging others to find out more about it.
Trash will launch its campaign on Youtube through a video which shows consumers the different ways in which single-use plastic waste can end up in the oceans. It will also include a website link so that they can find out more information. The reason the campaign will launch on Youtube is because it is a touchpoint for the Activist consumer. They are the most likely to see the video campaign first because they already use Youtube to find out about causes they care about, new movements and events, as well as upload their own videos about activism with the hope to encourage others to change. They are the influencers, and like to share what they find interesting with their followers online through Youtube and Instagram. This means that the video campaign will gain views and reach a wider audience by being shared across different social media platforms.
The Activists sharing the video across social media, will eventually be noticed by the Student consumers. From there they can discover the Instagram and website. As they take an interest in environmental matters but often prefer to use social media as a way of showing this through signing petitions or taking part in challenges that offer them rewards, Trash will do an Instagram challenge for consumers, challenging them to go plastic free and share their accomplishments using the hashtag #zeroplastictrash. Consumers who take part in the challenge will be rewarded through Trash regramming their posts onto the Instagram account and through a feed on the website. A single consumer will be chosen to share their achievement through an interview on the website and in a zine that will be available to consumers later on in the campaign launch. Using social media to raise awareness to the campaign is key, especially when targeting a younger audience. It is a great way to reach a wide range of people in a short space of time, and with today’s generations taking a stand on what they care about with the click of a button or the use of a hashtag challenge, awareness and change for good causes can happen. ‘No matter the voice or talking point, the power of a smart # has brought people together.’ (WGSN, 2016)
The website will feature educational information on how single-use plastic ends up in the ocean, and will also include information on solutions that can help consumers reduce the amount of plastic waste they produce. It will include zero waste strategies, tips on how to reuse single-use plastic when possible, what to use and buy instead, and which brands and companies are reducing the amount of plastic they are using so that consumers can shop sustainably without having to worry.
Following on from social media, guerrilla marketing will also be used closer to the event date. Guerrilla marketing works to generate hype for a brand in a creative and surprising way. For the campaign, large recycling bins will be placed in public areas of city centres, that feature the recycling logo and the words ‘We’re gonna need a bigger bin’ which is a take on the famous line ‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat’ from the 1975 movie Jaws, that is said when they realise how big the shark is, and how dangerous going after it in the boat they have is. It fits well with the plastic pollution problem, as we throw so much of it away and it’s becoming such a dangerous issue. The use of guerrilla marketing acts as a touchpoint for consumers and will create curiosity, and because they will stand out and consumers will take photographs and share them on social media. The Baby Boomer consumers will also see them when they are in town, and will tell their friends and family about them, which will make them want to find out more about it.
Finally there will be events that take place throughout the year. These events will consist of talks from influencers that have started to clean up cities from waste, adopted the zero waste lifestyle, and have witnessed the effects of plastic pollution. The events will take place in Nottingham city centre in Market Square, allowing everyone to join in, bringing the community together, and making it a social experience for all. This will raise awareness to the brand overall, even in the final campaign stage.
The free zines that will be available at the events will contain highlighted points of information that is also on the website. It will also feature an interview with a selected person who took part in the Instagram challenge #zeroplastictrash, which will cover what they achieved and how they found the challenge and whether they will continue to try and reduce the amount of plastic waste they are using. The zine will be available to all consumers, but it will mainly gain the interest of the Baby Boomer consumer as it will look like a newspaper, which is one of the main ways they find out information in their local areas.
Each consumer will have a different process that they will go through, because they will each discover the campaign at different stages. This links back to where they fit on the Diffusion of Innovation curve. They all fit into different categories in the social system. Each consumer will have different touchpoints because of this.
As the campaign is focusing on educating consumers on how their plastic trash can still affect our oceans even if we live in a city, it is important to consider what other events and important world days are taking place throughout the year. Launching the campaign on the same day as World Oceans Day for example would be beneficial as it is reaching consumers who are interested in the ocean, are taking part in events already happening on the day and want to see who else is doing something for it. Other important days and weeks that would beneficial to Trash’s campaign launch include World Water Day and National Recycling Week. Picking the correct date to launch the campaign is key to ensuring that the campaign is successful and can be discovered by consumers that want to have the help and knowledge that Trash can provide.
At each event there will be talks taking place from various key influencers around the subject. These will be bloggers of the zero waste lifestyle, leaders of beach cleans, and city clean ups and people who have had first hand experiences with plastic pollution.
Jessica Renz, Zero Waste Blogger – The Renz Nest
Jessica Renz only started her zero waste lifestyle in 2017, originally as a New Years resolution to only use a reusable cup for a year, but she quickly started to minimise her plastic usage in other ways. She is influential as she is still finding out new ways to approach the lifestyle, and so she understands how hard the change can be, but can also share her success and her strategies for going plastic free.
Kate Arnell, Zero Waste Blogger – Eco Boost
Kate Arnell is a zero waste blogger from London who has been zero waste for the past four years. She will be able to help people learn how to go zero waste for the long haul and can inspire them to do try the lifestyle the same as she did.
After each campaign, Trash will measure the success of them, by monitoring the traffic to the website, and the amount of people taking part in the challenges. From doing this Trash can continue to do what it is doing successfully, and can also consider changes that need to be made to target consumers better, and to raise awareness to the brand overall.
Moving forward as a brand in the future, Trash will continue to do events, but will expand further than Nottingham, taking the events to other cities around the UK. This will ensure that more consumers are educated in where their waste goes and can bring more people together to create a bigger change. Based on the success of the first event, Trash will also start to sell eco-friendly branded products, and 10% of all the sales will go towards city clean ups. This will help the each consumer feel that they are buying for a good cause, and will give them a sense of achievement. Consumers will also have the chance to become brand ambassadors to promote the brand, becoming a brand ambassador will allow them to get discounts on products. This will appeal to the Activist consumers, as they are advocates for causes that they care about.
Trash also realised that it will need to stay current, in order to keep going and keep environmental changes happening. Plastic pollution will hopefully start to become less of a serious issue in the future, but there are other problems that are oceans ace because of human impact such as the Arctic ice caps melting because of global warming and coral bleaching. Trash will continue to research into these matters to find out how the consumer can make small changes to their lifestyles to create a big difference for out oceans. Trash will also start to work with companies and brands as, providing them with sustainable alternatives to plastic packaging.-
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