Plastics News, it appears, is on the cutting edge of popular culture.
I'm not claiming that I invented the Dougie … but you can't prove that I didn't. No, this pop culture milestone is firmly plastics-related.
The Collins English Dictionary announced Nov. 6 that its word of the year is "single-use." The selection is clearly related to the public's growing awareness of plastic litter.
"Single-use refers to products — often plastic — that are 'made to be used once only' before disposal," the publisher wrote in a blog announcing the decision. "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."
The publisher noted that use of the term has increased four-fold since 2013. It credited news stories and images, such as those seen in the BBC's "Blue Planet II," for "steeply raising public awareness of the issue."
"Single-use" had stiff competition this year. It was up against "MeToo," "vegan" and "VAR," for example.
Take a moment to stop and think about that. Collins is saying that plastic pollution was the biggest cultural phenomenon of 2018; bigger than #MeToo and VAR.
By the way, if you haven't heard of VAR, then you didn't watch any of the World Cup soccer matches this summer. It refers to the "video assistant referee," the person who watches replays and decides if the officials on the field made a mistake.
According to Collins, "2018 was, without question, the year of the eco-warrior."
Back to my original point, "single-use" is nothing new to Plastics News readers. I did a quick search of our story archives, which date back to 1994. I literally found hundreds of cases where we used the term.
For example, do you remember when single-use cameras were a thing? It turns out they were big in 1994.
Back then, the term single-use usually meant something good. Companies that came up with single-use plastic products were using lots of resin, and had their feet in the door in growing markets. Manufacturers of durable products were old school. Single-use plastics were the wave of the future.
From what I can tell, our first stories that implied the term had a negative connotation were in 2005, when we had several stories about proposals to crack down on sales of single-use plastics in Australia, France and California.
Another plastics-related Collins 2018 word of the year finalist — they use #CollinsWOTY if you want to share your thoughts on social media — is "plogging." That's a newer one, but I've seen it a few times in the past few months. This officially is the first time it will appear in Plastics News. Plogging refers to the activity that combines jogging with picking up litter, to improve both your health and the environment. I've plogged before I knew there was a name for it, but I'm not going to take credit for inventing the trend.
It would be nice if the public came up with a word that recognized all the efforts to make plastics a more sustainable packaging material. Or, better yet, to make the word plastics synonymous with safe, sustainable, energy-saving packaging.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.