‘Blue Planet’ effect: Nearly half of British consumers are cutting plastic usage

A staggering 75% of the British public are cutting down their consumption of products they see as having a harmful impact on the environment or their health, from single-use plastic to meat, according to a new survey.

The impact of plastic on the planet has hit home the hardest with the British public, thanks in part to the BBC wildlife series Blue Planet, with 46% stating they actively cut down on their plastic usage. Those surveyed said they are also consciously consuming less sugar, salt, gluten, palm oil, travel, non-recyclable materials, clothing and products that have been tested on animals.

The research found that 1 in 5 Britons now eat less meat, with the highest number doing so because of their health (56%) followed by 39% doing it for the greater good. A relatively large number of people, 20%, said they were cutting down on meat due to feelings of guilt.

The study, by Walnut Unlimited, surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2000 people in order to find out the nation’s consumption habits. “As consumers, we are now looking to extend our consideration for the world beyond our own households and towards the polluted sea, depleting wildlife and our planet in general,” said Abi Olingschlaeger, who led the research at Walnut Unlimited. “We’ve realised that small changes in behaviour can and have already had a collectively huge impact.”

The majority of consumers surveyed (43%) said they are changing their habits to help the environment, followed by a smaller number (21%) putting it down to social pressures.

Surprisingly, the research showed that it’s older consumers that are leading this drive for change, with a total of 65% of people aged over 75 saying they try to reduce their plastic waste, compared with 36% of 18-44 year olds who make the same claim. “This is arguably a result of more free time which can erase the pressure of using additional plastic,” said Abi Olingschlaeger at Walnut Unlimited. “Older people have also grown up in the pre-plastic era, and so remember alternative solutions.”

Women are more likely to reduce their consumption, with 79% stating they do so, compared to 71% of men. Females are also twice as likely as males (41% to 21%) to avoid products tested on animals. In addition, more women than men cut their meat consumption (27% compared with 17% of men)), with 54% of women doing this to benefit their physical health.

Interestingly, 69% of people who reduce plastic waste also said they felt more positive about life, compared to much lower numbers of people who did not reduce their plastic consumption. Perhaps they felt more optimistic about their life and the future, knowing that they were doing their part to help.

Among the 25% of Britons who have not changed their shopping behaviour or reduced their consumption, over half (58%) said it was because they don’t see any need to (with more males than females holding this attitude) while 15% claim to be rejecting conscious consumerism for financial reasons.

“It’s evident that conscious consumerism is here and here to stay. Consumer expectations are higher than ever. Not only are brands and retailers expected to provide top quality products, but they are also expected to hold a good sustainable, environmental and social stance too,” said Abi Olingschlaeger.

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