By 2020, the British Broadcasting Company hopes to no longer be using single-use plastics across all sites.
No sooner does The Queen take aim at single-use plastics, than Auntie—as the BBC is affectionately known—decides to follow suit. According to reports by, ahem, the BBC of course, the BBC is going to phase out plastic cups and cutlery by the end of this year. That will be followed by plastic containers at its canteens next year and, by 2020, Director General Tony Hall says he wants the entire corporation to be free of single-use plastics entirely.
That's a pretty ambitious timeline to say the least, and follows on the heels of Eurostar pledging to cut plastics by half in the next two years and airports, restaurant chains and ferry companies taking steps to get rid of plastic straws.
Of course, every single-use plastic item that's not used is inherently worth celebrating, but I'm particularly excited to see these moves happening on a large scale at the institutional level. It's all very well for us tree-hugging, conscious consumer types to reuse our coffee cups and refuse straws from bartenders, but we're also the folks who would most likely recycle such items along with the packaging for our tofu. I've argued before that shopping and individual lifestyle change can't save us, but shifts at the institutional, community and national policy level can really make a dent in overall plastic consumption.
And they will do so with every single consumer, even the ones who litter. So yes, each of us can make a difference by reusing what we can and choosing greener options. And we can also do our part by cleaning up after others too. But the absolute most important thing we can do is to put pressure on the businesses we frequent, the organizations we work for, the communities we live in, and the policy makers who represent us to take bold, system-wide steps to phase out disposable, single-use plastics before they totally choke up our oceans.
The evidence coming in from the UK in particular suggests change can happen much, much faster than any of us might have previously imagined.