David Attenborough Convinces The BBC And The Queen to Ban Single-Use Plastics

What a man. 

15 FEB 2018

Sir David Attenborough is urging the world to cut back on its exorbitant and unchecked use of plastic. His newest documentary Blue Planet II, which was the most-watched TV show in the UK last year, has started an important conversation about the massive scale of single-use plastics currently floating in our oceans.


After watching the show's first episode on plastic pollution - in which a pilot calf dies after consuming plastic-contaminated milk and an albatross unknowingly feeds its chicks plastic - millions of heart-broken viewers were compelled to take action, including the BBC and the Queen of England herself.

"Unless the flow of plastics into the world's oceans is reduced, marine life will be poisoned by them for many centuries to come," said 91-year-old Attenborough in the series. At the show's launch, he urged the world to take action, saying that humanity held the future of the planet "in the palm of its hands".

The producers of the show obviously took that message to heart. This week, the BBC announced an ambitious plan to ban single-use plastics across all company sites by 2020.

"Like millions of people watching Blue Planet II, I was shocked to see the avoidable waste and harm created by single-use plastic," said director general of the BBC Tony Hall.

"We all need to do our bit to tackle this problem, and I want the BBC to lead the way."


Each year, the world produces about 400 million tonnes of plastic, and 40 percent of that is used only once. Unfortunately, not all of that single-use plastic is biodegradable - but even when it can be recycled, we don't often follow through.

British people, for instance, use 7.7 billion single-use plastic water bottles a year and fewer than half of those are recycled. All in all, that equates to roughly 16 million plastic bottles that are thrown away every day in Britain.

So where does that staggering amount of plastic end up? Well, about 10 percent of it comes to rest floating in the sea, putting birds and marine animals at risk of entanglement or even choking.

In fact, there's so much plastic spilling into our oceans, there's now a 2:1 ratio of plankton to plastic - and that gap is closing fast. If things continue unchecked, plastic will outweigh fish by 2050.

"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, a 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."

Even the Queen is appalled by the problem and is striving to do her part. After working with Sir David Attenborough on a conservation documentary, the Queen declared a royal war on single-use plastics, banning straws and plastic bottles at her estates.

"Across the organisation, the Royal Household is committed to reducing its environmental impact," said a spokesman for Buckingham Palace.

"As part of that, we have taken a number of practical steps to cut back on the use of plastics. At all levels, there's a strong desire to tackle this issue."

Now, caterers at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse will only be allowed to use china plates, china glasses, or recyclable paper cups. Even takeaway food at the Royal Collection cafes must now be served in compostable or biodegradable packaging.

Because, come on. It's David Attenborough asking.

"We have a responsibility, every one of us," Attenborough said at the launch.

"We may think we live a long way from the oceans, but we don't. What we actually do here, and in the middle of Asia and wherever, has a direct effect on the oceans – and what the oceans do then reflects back on us."