Skip to content

You are using an outdated browser

Internet Explorer is not supported by this site and Microsfot has stopped releasing updates, therefore you may encounter issues whilst visiting this site and we strongly recommend that you upgrade your browser for modern web functionality, a better user experience and improved security.

Upgrade my browser

How the ‘Attenborough Effect’ Is Causing Plastic Pollution to Plunge

3 min read

Good Stuff
Source: Facebook/SirDavidAttenborough

A phenomenon nicknamed the ‘Attenborough Effect’ has lead to 53% drop in single use plastic in just 12 months.

Celebrities like Sir David have a unique role to play in reducing plastic waste.

In the final episode of Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series, the iconic environmentalist turned his attention to the growing problem of plastic waste. The episode showed baby birds feeding on bits of plastic, coastlines covered in pollution, and marine environments around the world teeming with plastic waste. Throughout it all, Attenborough urged viewers to become more sustainable — and his efforts seem to have paid off. A new report shows that people in the US and UK reduced their single-use plastic use by 53% over the last 12 months. The authors attribute the steep decline to the “Attenborough effect.”

Sir David Attenborough’s environment documentaries are having a positive impact on the public Who better dancer David Attenborough to explain why we can feel hopeful about saving our planet? The time to act is now. #ShareOurPlanet Source: Facebook/WWF-Canada

Attenborough’s TV series Blue Planet II and Our Planet are changing people’s behaviour

GlobalWebIndex surveyed 3,833 people in the US and UK and found that 82% prefer sustainable packaging for the products they buy in everyday life and 66% are more likely to trust brands that make a pledge to be more sustainable.

People have also been inspired by veteran naturalist Sir David Attenborough’s tendency to live out his own advice. During the filming of Blue Planet II, he and his team picked up every bit of litter they found in the ocean.

Over the past year, the fight against plastic pollution has gained momentum around the world. 

More than 60 countries have take action to restrict plastic production and consumption, major multinational companies have invested in alternatives, and ordinary people have spearheaded ocean clean-ups.

But celebrities could be key to making the movement mainstream, according to Bill Levey, CEO of Naeco, a company that makes sustainable plastic alternatives.

“This is one area where the power of celebrity can really be used for good,” Levey told Global Citizen. “In the case of Attenborough, he has been reporting on scientific issues for decades, he’s won the respect of scientists, and at this age now has that kind of fatherly, stately aura.

“I really do think that this is an issue that can only benefit from having a loud and powerful voice,” he added. 

“Anyone with a large following can use their platform to help raise awareness of the effects of our plastic use on the environment,” Levey said.

“In today’s world, there are a lot of celebrities who have a very targeted following and have the ability to reach people who otherwise may not be able to hear about these issues,” he added.


9 Ways You Can Help Reduce Plastic Pollution Plastic Oceans International provides this video Infographic, offering 9 tips for how you can help reduce plastic pollution. Even the smallest changes by an individual can lead to massive changes among the collective. Please join us in being part of the solution. Source: YouTube/PlasticOceansInternational

The movement Attenborough helped grow is now driving fundamental change at the legislative level

For as long as many of us have been alive, Sir David Attenborough has been showing people the splendour of our planet Earth, and for more than a decade warning us about its possible decline. So it’s no wonder that when he gave people a tangible thing they could do to help the planet — reduce plastic — they embraced it.

And now the movement he helped to grow is driving fundamental change at the legislative level. The UK government is currently consulting with plastic experts to develop policies to improve recycling rates and reduce plastic production, according to Geoff Brighty, the technical director of Plastic Oceans.

“It has really crystallised in the government’s mind that the public consciousness has moved to a place where we don’t want this to happen anymore, it’s affecting our lives, we don’t want it to affect our ecosystems,” Brighty told GlobalCitizen.



From a rise in demand for glass milk bottles to a boom in marine biology courses and a wave of single-use plastic bans across the UK, the BBC documentary series has been causing ripples. Check out BrightVibes article on the Blue Planet Effect here.

Make an Impact

Rethink Plastic: For A Better Planet. For A Better You

It’s not just about us. Humans created the problem, but it impacts all living creatures and the entire planet. Help create a wave of change. Get the facts. Education Programs. Donate. Join with and make a real difference.