Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Environment

BBC to Eliminate All Single-Use Plastics By 2020

The BBC is set to ban single-use plastics across all its operations by 2020.

Changes are already underway too — all plastic cups and cutlery will be removed before the end of the year.

Take Action: Stand Up for the Arctic

Visitors to the BBC use around 2 million plastic cups annually. The rest of the UK gets through 7 million disposable coffee cups every single day — about 2.5 billion a year — and only 1% of these actually get recycled.

The world’s oldest public broadcaster has started phasing plastic cups out of kitchens for glasses, and plans to remove all plastic containers from canteens by 2019 — kicking off with a pilot scheme in Salford that will also include a coffee cup recycling scheme, according to the Guardian.

Next stop: the supply chain! Just like supermarket chain Iceland, which has pledged to be plastic-free by 2023, the BBC will talk to suppliers to work out how to further reduce avoidable plastic waste, including product packaging and catering on location. All new contracts will have a requirement to cut plastic.

It seems that the move was inspired by the same national hero who reportedly convinced the Queen to ban all plastic straws and bottles from the Royal Estates this week.

Arise, Knight of Planet Earth, BFF of Queens, Protector of Seas, Breaker of Habits — Sir David Attenborough!

Read More: 9 Brilliant Ways the UK Is Cracking Down on Plastic Pollution

Last year’s “Blue Planet II”, narrated by Sir David, was the UK’s most watched TV show of 2017. It beat both X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing for ratings with the launch of its first episode in November, attracting an average of over 10 million live viewers. Since then it’s raised a huge level of awareness for environmental causes like plastic pollution — even persuading environment secretary Michael Gove to give the entire cabinet disposable bamboo coffee cups as gifts.

There are over 5 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean, with over 400 million tonnes of plastic produced globally every single year — 40% of which is single-use only.

“Like millions of people watching ‘Blue Planet II’, I was shocked to see the avoidable waste and harm created by single-use plastic,” said Lord Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general. “We all need to do our bit to tackle this problem, and I want the BBC to lead the way.”

Read More: 200 MPs Call on UK Supermarkets to Scrap Plastic Packaging

“Scrapping throwaway plastic cups and cutlery is the first step, and with our plan I hope we can have a BBC free of single-use plastic altogether,” Hall added.

The government has also pledged to tackle single-use plastic, but on a different timetable.

British Prime Minister Theresa May launched a 25-year “global gold standard” plan in January to eradicate all “avoidable” plastics by 2042. Gove has already banned microbeads and extended the 5p bag tax to encompass all retailers — and is reportedly considering proposals for a 25p tax charge on disposable coffee cups.

"The BBC is already a bit of a hero amongst those of us worried about the millions of tonnes of plastic entering our oceans every year, as the ‘Blue Planet II’ series did as much to raise awareness of this issue as years of campaigning,” said Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK. "But awareness-raising is only step one, so it's really encouraging to see the BBC moving on to taking action."

Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, including Goal No.11 for sustainable cities and communities. Take action with us here.