Once you’ve seen albatross parents feeding plastic to their chicks, there's no going back.
The final episode of the BBC’s Blue Planet II has been widely heralded as a key moment sparking the war on plastics.
And new research has shown that an incredible 88% of people who watched the programme have since changed their behaviour as a result. Half of these people said they had “drastically changed” their behaviour, and half said they had “somewhat changed” it.
The annual food and drink report from Waitrose supermarket, based on a survey of 2,000 adults who shop across a range of retailers, identified combatting plastic as the number one trend about British consumers.
'Never before have we had such an awareness of what we are doing to the planet and never before have we had the power to do something about that. Surely we have a responsibility to care for our blue planet.' - Sir David Attenborough#BluePlanet2pic.twitter.com/x0egn2gVhk— BBC Earth (@BBCEarth) December 10, 2017
“A new era of environmentalism has taken hold, and attitudes towards single-use bags, disposable plastic straws, and packaging will never be the same,” reads the report.
According to the research, more than 60% of people use reusable water bottles more now than they did in 2017 — and over 70% of 18 to 24-year-olds.
“From the Houses of Parliament, which announced a ban on single-use plastics in May, to Love Island — the TV show’s legendary bottles became summer’s hottest accessory — refillable bottles are becoming commonplace,” it added.
Meanwhile, 60% of us also now more regularly use a refillable cup for takeaway coffee, as a result of watching Blue Planet II. Some 66% of 18 to 24-year-olds said they were more likely to choose a reusable cup when out; and 56% of 35 to 44-year-olds.
And customers are also increasingly buying unpacked fruit and vegetables in Waitrose stores too. Sales of loose pears, for example, are growing at 30 times the rate of bagged pears.
Waitrose also said that its customer service team has seen an 800% increase in questions about plastic, which just goes to show that constant and relentless raising of our united consumer voice is a key way to drive change.
“We’ve seen a big shift in consumer behaviour,” said Natalie Mitchell, head of brand development and product innovation at Waitrose. “Previously, customers wanted to know that we were taking care of things, but now they get actively involved.”
Waitrose, like all leading UK supermarkets, is taking steps to listen to consumer demands and cut down on waste.
It’s going to be the first nationwide supermarket to replace plastic bags for loose fruit and vegetables with an alternative that can be composted at home. It’s also going to remove 5p single-use plastic bags, in favour of longer-term versions.
Both of these changes will be in-store by spring 2019 — and it’s predicted to save 134 million plastic bags a year.
Disposable takeaway coffee cups have also been removed from in-store coffee stations too — saving more than 52 million cups a year.
But the changes in customer behaviour don’t stop there.
A third of people in the UK have also cut down their meat consumption, according to the report — or cut it out of their diet altogether.
One in eight Brits are now vegetarian or vegan, and 21% of people are flexitarian, meaning an increased focus on meat-free meals, without cutting it out entirely.
About 60% of the vegans and 40% of the vegetarians surveyed had changed their diets within the past five years.
Of those who had made changes, 55% did it for animal welfare reasons, 45% for health reasons, and 38% for environmental reasons.