BBC announces major initiative 'Plastics Watch' following the global impact of Blue Planet II
The BBC announces the launch of Plastics Watch, including new programme commissions and digital content, as part of a pan-BBC initiative looking at the changes happening across the UK and the wider world in tackling plastic pollution, following the huge global impact of Blue Planet II.
The actions of any just one of us may seem to be trivial and to have no effect. But the knowledge that there are hundreds of thousands of people who are doing the same thing - that really does have an effect
- Sir David Attenborough has been “absolutely astonished” at the impact of Blue Planet II. He “never imagined there would be so many inspired to want change” as he calls for public participation on reducing plastic waste in a new film to launch Plastics Watch.
- Blue Planet II series reached over 37m in UK. Following the final episode, 62 percent of those surveyed wanted to make changes to their daily lives to reduce impact on our oceans.
- BBC announces launch of new online hub, digital content, social media campaign and major TV moments across BBC One over the next year.
- Multi-platform initiative aims to positively enable the British public to help reduce plastic pollution.
Today the BBC announces the launch of Plastics Watch, including new programme commissions and digital content, as part of a pan-BBC initiative looking at the changes happening across the UK and the wider world in tackling plastic pollution, following the huge global impact of Blue Planet II.
Six months on from the final episode of the groundbreaking BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit series Blue Planet II, which saw 62 percent of surveyed UK audiences say they wanted to make changes in their daily lives to reduce pollution of our oceans, the new multi-platform initiative launches today with a brand new online short presented by world-renowned naturalist and presenter of Blue Planet II, Sir David Attenborough.
Sir David Attenborough says: “We hoped that Blue Planet II would open people’s eyes to the damage that we are doing to our oceans and the creatures that live in them. I’ve been absolutely astonished at the result that that programme has had. I never imagined there would be quite so many of you who would be inspired to want change. The strength of your response has not gone unnoticed in the corridors of power, or in business boardrooms. The actions of any just one of us may seem to be trivial and to have no effect. But the knowledge that there are thousands, hundreds of thousands of people who are doing the same thing - that really does have an effect - so please join us.”
Plastics Watch will showcase BBC content produced across TV, Radio, News, Online and Children’s; provide information and advice to positively enable the British public to help reduce plastic pollution; and publish digital content on the topic, exploring the statistics, science and real life changes individuals are making around their consumption of single-use plastics.
This comes on the back of the BBC’s own commitments to cut single use plastics which have already seen plastic cutlery and plastic take away food containers removed from BBC buildings, with plastic cups being replaced by the end of the year.
Tony Hall, BBC Director General, said: “Six months since the BBC’s Blue Planet II became part of the national conversation; we’ve seen an extraordinary public response to the environmental issues the programme raised, in particular plastic pollution. I want the BBC to lead by example with our commitment to banning single use plastics by 2020 - which I am pleased to say is progressing ahead of schedule. From today, Plastics Watch will reflect the changes happening around the UK and wider world, bringing together the bigger picture to inform, inspire and enable the public to make meaningful choices around their use of plastic.”
BBC One’s Blue Planet II, which reached a total of 37.6m in the UK (over 62 percent of the UK population) and was the most watched television programme of 2017, attracted global attention in highlighting the damaging impact single-use plastic is having on the world’s oceans and environment. Seventy eight percent of surveyed UK audiences said it made them care more about conservation, and the public was driven to act, with significant increases in internet searches such as ‘dangers of plastic in the ocean’ (100 percent increase post series launch) and ‘plastic recycling’ (55 percent increase post series finale). The societal impact of Blue Planet II has been wide reaching, with plastics becoming both a national and political talking point, after it was highlighted in the 2017 Budget speech and lead to change in government environmental policy.
A new online short presented by Sir David Attenborough looks at the role that Blue Planet II has played in inspiring audiences and pushing the topic of plastic waste right up the political agenda. Featuring audiences in the UK and in China who have been inspired to make changes in their lives to reduce their ‘plastic footprint’ after watching the series, David highlights the UK’s effort so far and calls for the public to join in.
On BBC One, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall will present War On Plastics, continuing the work he started in Hugh’s War On Waste. Since Hugh exposed the fact that billions of disposable coffee cups never get recycled, consumers have been encouraged to change their behaviour and carry re-usable coffee cups - and the big coffee companies have been forced to try and find a solution to the disposable cup problem.
Now Hugh is going to experience first hand the devastation that plastic waste is having on our planet, while continuing to challenge the most environmentally unfriendly businesses and unpicking a system that has us all wedded to our favourite flexible material. He’ll also be encouraging all of us to do our bit by breaking our bad plastic habits and replacing them with more sustainable solutions.
Also on BBC One, Drowning In Plastic is a timely 90 minute special with science and wildlife presenter Liz Bonnin (pictured), which sets out to reveal the full scale of the world’s plastic problem and its impact on wildlife, exploring ways in which science can offer a solution. Travelling to Australia, Indonesia, the US and the Arctic, Liz will track and follow plastic waste to discover where it travels once it gets into the sea; visit some of our planet’s 'plastic hot spots' to investigate the issue at its worst; and discover the amazing ways that scientists around the world are trying to rectify this daunting problem.
As part of Plastics Watch, Liz Bonnin is filming short video diaries to share her journey as it happens, online, and documenting the findings of Drowning In Plastic. In the first of the international shoots Liz finds animals struggling to cope with a daily deluge of plastic waste - and with her team sees young Flesh-Footed Shearwater birds whose stomachs were full of plastic - as shown in a video diary film released today on Plastics Watch.
And later this year, also on BBC One, Stacey Dooley will present The Truth About What You Wear. Few people are aware that alongside the oil, coal and palm oil industries, the clothing industry is one of the most damaging to the environment and our wildlife. Revealing how our passion for fast fashion is threatening endangered species such as orangutans and jaguars, Stacey will hold some of the big clothing brands to account and challenge them to change their practices and help save the planet’s wildlife.
Plastic Watch - Digital Content
A series of online films from BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit will reveal the full extent of the plastics issue through statistics. Every year in the UK, we use nearly 7.7 billion single-use plastic water bottles and 16.5 billion pieces of single use plastic cutlery. However, behind the bleak statistics each film will also calculate the plastic waste that can be prevented and the positive impact on the environment if the UK public adopts a change in behaviour.
A new public participation site, Plastics Action, will aim to enable the whole of the UK to become #PlasticsAction heroes by choosing one (or more) of five suggested actions to reduce their plastic footprint. Chosen in consultation with leading organisations in the field, the five small changes that can make a big difference are starting to use a re-useable bottle, coffee cup, straw, lunch box or shopping bag.
Audiences can also take part by making their own suggestions. During this initiative the BBC will gather information from across the UK, broken down by age range and region, in order to see what individuals are doing through the Plastics Action website, which has been produced in partnership with The Open University.
The BBC committed earlier this year to removing all single-use plastic from its operations by 2020 and changes are rapidly progressing with the three step plan. All plastic cutlery and plastic take away food containers have now been removed from BBC buildings ahead of target and we’re on track to remove plastic cups by the end of the year.
The trial in BBC North’s restaurant to remove all single use plastic has now become a permanent fixture, as well as glass milk bottles being used throughout the site, and we are continuing to discuss cutting single-use plastic in other parts of our operations, including coffee cups, by 2020.
A BBC Teach Live Lesson will be streamed into classrooms at the end of March 2019 (w/c 25 March) as part of Plastics Watch. The 30-minute live interactive teaching resource, created by BBC Learning, will focus on environmental topics for primary school children. More information and a guide for teachers will available nearer the time at bbc.co.uk/livelessons.
Notes to Editors
Sir David Attenborough quotes:
“We hoped that Blue Planet II would open people’s eyes to the damage that we are doing to our oceans and the creatures that live in them."
“I’ve been absolutely astonished at the result that that programme has had. I never imagined there would be quite so many of you who would be inspired to want change."
“You’ve been on beaches, with thousands more of you than ever before picking up rubbish, families have changed their habits and schools and communities across the country have searched for ways to reduce their single use plastic footprint.
“What is more the strength of your response has not gone unnoticed in the corridors of power, or in business boardrooms.
“Even as far away as China change is happening.
“Right now, eight million tonnes of plastics ends up in the oceans every year. But you, by your responses, have shown that if we start doing those small steps that are easily achievable, we can before long really have an effect.
“If you want to join in, find out five easy ways to make a difference, and share with us what you’re up to, visit bbc.co.uk/plasticswatch
“The actions of any just one of us may seem to be trivial and to have no effect. But the knowledge that there are thousands, hundreds of thousands of people who are doing the same thing - that really does have an effect - so please join us.”
Impact of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s previous series:
Since Hugh’s War On Waste broadcast on BBC One, all major supermarkets introduced wonky vegetable lines and sold vegetables which would otherwise have been thrown away. Fareshare, a charitable food re-distribution company, now gives out an extra 50,000 meals a week thanks to increased donations from depots and back of store. KFC committed to giving away their unsold chicken to charities across all their stores. Amazon reviewed their packaging policies. Pret a Manger is giving a discount of 50p for using a reusable cup, and Starbucks is trialling a 5p surcharge for customers who use a disposable cup.
Since Britain’s Fat Fight with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall broadcast on BBC One, Nestle have changed the traffic light labelling on their boxes; Superdrug and Topshop reduced the amount of sweets at their tills; 10 high street retailers changed their children’s menus amounting to seven million healthier meals a year; and fruit juice companies changed their labels to make it clearer that we shouldn’t drink more than 150 mls of their product a day.
War On Plastics, a 3x60’ series for BBC One, was commissioned by Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content and David Brindley, Head of Commissioning, Factual Entertainment and Popular Factual. It is made by KEO, and the Executive Producers are Andrew Palmer and Will Anderson. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Clare Mottershead.
- Consolidated audience figures for the first episode of Blue Planet II show the programme reached over 14 million viewers in the UK.
- Blue Planet II total UK audience reach was 37.6 million and over 62% of the UK population (all seven episodes and seven repeats) - BBC Pulse Survey (UK)
- Statistics on what impact the series had on viewers - BBC Pulse Survey (UK)
- The Truth About What You Wear and Drowning in Plastic previously announced here
- Source on plastic bottles here
- Source on plastic cutlery here
- Plastics Action organisations - Marine Conservation Society; WRAP; #2minutebeachclean; Surfers Against Sewage; The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration