Mon, Sep 24, '18

#Scicomm Campaign inspiration: The UN's Clean Seas campaign

Alex Cloney



I hope you’ve drawn inspiration from our whistle stop tour of high profile science communication campaigns over the last 12 months. My final campaign is one that I’m sure will resonate with everyone and created quite the snowball effect: the UN’s Clean Seas campaign.


Every year, around 8 million tonnes of plastic – approximately one rubbish truck full every minute - end up in the world’s oceans, having a devastating effect on wildlife. Clean Seas wanted to increase awareness among public and policymakers to help reverse the problem through new legislation, consumer behaviour and technological solutions.


Originally launched in early 2017, the UN’s Clean Seas campaign really took off at the end of last year. As nations from around the world agreed a new UN resolution to halt the tide of ocean plastic that scientists warned is poisoning global waters, public attitudes were about to undergo a rapid shift.

Catalysed by the holy trinity of national TV, national treasure and animals, the understanding of the damage of plastic can do really hit home with audiences in late 2017 with the BBC 1 series Blue Planet II. David Attenborough’s empathetic narrative of an albatross feeding its chicks plastic and dolphins exposing their new-born calves to pollutants, shocked viewers watching at home and caused an incredible response on social media.

From there, anti-plastic sentiment snowballed around Europe and North America, with media outlets, non-profits, academia and big business all picking up the mantle for fighting unnecessary plastic, organising beach clean-ups, committing to reducing their waste or providing information to help the public shift their own habits.

David Attenborough urges action on plastics


Nearly 90,000 people have signed up for the #CleanSeas pledge to end their use of single-use plastics and microbeads. 50 governments – accounting for more than half the world’s coastline – have signed up to the campaign and made commitments to mitigate the effect of plastic waste.

In January 2018, the EU announced plans to make all plastic packaging reusable or recyclable by 2030.

Not in my lifetime can I recall a shift from ‘acceptable’ to ‘taboo’ in such a short space of time as the perceptions of plastic straws in 2018.


And now, enough from me – it’s your turn! Which campaigns have most inspired you over the last year? Have your say by nominating the organisations for SCi25 here.