Though they be little in size, words are fiercely powerful. Combined with a hashtag, they can rally a global movement like #MeToo. And, words can sum up a shift in social attitudes.
Collins Dictionary’s word of the year does precisely that — it encompasses a shift in society’s attitude towards plastic. That word is “single-use”.
So, what precisely do we mean when we say “single-use”? Per a blogpost, Collins defines the term as describing “products – often plastic – that are ‘made to be used once only’ before disposal.”
“‘Single-use’, a term that describes items whose unchecked proliferation are blamed for damaging the environment and affecting the food chain, has been named Collins’ Word of the Year 2018,” reads the blog.
“Images of plastic adrift in the most distant oceans, such as straws, bottles, and bags have led to a global campaign to reduce their use.”
Collins states that the word has “seen a four-fold increase” since 2013 and attributes the rise in public awareness in part to the BBC’s Blue Planet II documentary.
79 percent of plastic waste ends up in landfills or in the natural environment in the UK, per the BBC. An estimated 12.7 tonnes of plastic enters our oceans every year — that’s a “truck load of rubbish” according to Greenpeace.
So, why has Collins chosen this word in particular? “Single-use encompasses a global movement to kick our addiction to disposable products,” reads a Collins blog.
“From plastic bags, bottles and straws to washable nappies, we have become more conscious of how our habits and behaviours can impact the environment.”
Other words on Collins’ shortlist include “plogging,” a Swedish trend which combines jogging with picking up litter. Another shortlisted word is “floss”, referring, of course, to the dance move and not the dental hygiene product.
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