Search Trends

Ethical shopping: Is plastic your bag?

28 Aug 2018

If you walk into any supermarket in the UK, chances are you’ll find yourself surrounded by plastic covered produce. But picking up a shrink wrapped lettuce isn’t cutting it for consumers these days.

After the airing of BBC’s Blue Planet II, showing the devastating impact of plastic waste on the ocean, the British public have become much more eco-conscious. Whilst the whole of Britain was shaken by Blue Planet II’s message, the younger demographic in particular are getting on board, being more inclined to endorse all sorts of eco lifestyles; vegetarianism, veganism etc.

Even the government are taking a stand and have banded together with over 40 companies to create the UK Plastics Pact - the pact works to rethink the way we use plastic, targeting such plastic goods as straws and bottles. Impressive and influential companies such as Coca Cola have signed up, so you know this is serious business.

Searches for the effects of plastic

If we look at searches surrounding the damaging effects of plastic on the environment, using our Market Intelligence tool, we can see a huge spike in interest on this subject since late 2017 in to 2018.

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Blue Planet II aired in November and December 2017 which directly correlates with the the uplift in searches here.

We can see that whilst the ‘Plastic effects general’ terms were being searched a lot, as people further educated themselves on the issue, it seems online users are much more practical and searched the most for plastic free products.

This reveals the willingness of the British public to ‘do their bit’ in the war on plastic. David Attenborough really got in our heads.

Plastic free supermarkets

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Again, we can see a huge increase in search volume for supermarket packaging terms at the end of 2017.

To try and keep up with this trend, supermarkets are now trying to cut back on plastic throughout their stores; plastic packaging must go.

In fact, many have their own website landing pages detailing their plastic free triumphs and their future plans to further diminish their plastic waste.


Harking back to the good ol’ days, Morrison’s is now providing brown paper bags for loose fruits and veg. They are even urging their customer to bring their own containers when visiting their butcher and fishmonger sections.

This initiative is both recyclable and will supposedly save using up to 150 million plastic bags each year.


Aldi is introducing recyclable plastic trays for a few of its products; tomatoes, broccoli, baby corn and asparagus to name a few.

It’s hoped that this will save an estimated 265 tonnes of packaging waste each year. Whilst they are not going completely plastic free, this will encourage recycling and spare landfills from unnecessary plastic waste.


Waitrose are finding innovative ways to tackle the issue of plastic packaging, even creating a tomato/recycled paper tray for its tomatoes. They are committed to making their own-label packaging widely recyclable and home compostable.

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Plastic free products

The unnecessary use of plastic is everywhere in today’s society, not just in supermarkets but also products surrounding the food and drinks industry such as straws, cups and cutlery.

If we focus on plastic free product searches, we can see that cups and straws are the most sought after.

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These categories peaked in April 2018, when the UK government proposed banning plastic straws and cotton buds. However the demand was sustained into the early summer months of 2018, and is set to continue for the rest of the year with paper, glass and bamboo straws appearing in coffee shops and restaurants alike.

Monster chains such as Starbucks and McDonalds are jumping on this trend and are actively trying to phase out plastics straws and cups.

Is plastic out for good?

Looking at the charts above, it’s clear that in 2018 the British public have been jolted awake to the realities of plastics effect on the environment, and they are mercilessly going after plastic in all its menial forms.

Brands and retailers need to be aware of this shift in public consciousness, and ensure they are catering to the surge in interest; whether that be by highlighting their established plastic waste reductions, or developing new policies. Extra points for the craziest, most recyclable solutions!


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