Single-use plastics are an ocean disaster, says Oceana

Who: Ocean conservation group Oceana Canada, with Elemental.

What: “End the Plastic Disaster,” a new, visually striking campaign urging Canadians to sign an online petition urging the federal government to meet its commitment to banning unnecessary single-use plastics by 2021. As of Friday, the petition had amassed nearly 60,000 of its stated goal of 75,000 signatures.

When & Where: The campaign broke June 21 and runs for eight weeks. It includes a one-minute video running as online video and YouTube pre-roll, with a series of 15-seconds spotlighting individual creative components.

Why: The health of the world’s oceans continue to be imperilled by plastic waste, says Oceana Canada, with an estimated 22 million kilograms of plastic leaking into the oceans every day. The volume of plastic waste is projected to increase four times by 2050.

Recycling alone isn’t enough to stem the problem, says Oceana (only 9% of the plastic ever produced has been recycled). Policy change is the only way the situation can improve.

How: A lot of plastic campaigns tend to focus on showing how plastics impact marine life, but Elemental’s goal  was to convey the enormity of the problem. The video presents everyday single-use plastic items (straws, bottles and food containers) as visual representations of major ocean disasters like oil rig spills and tanker sinkings.

“The imagery of the death of aquatic life is very striking, but we wanted to go a different route, and started focusing our attention on scale,” says Dustin Brown, partner, head of strategy at Elemental. Early ideas he and creative director Scott Fess had were built around comparing plastics to familiar landmarks, before they hit on the idea of likening the daily spill of plastic into the ocean to major disasters like the Deepwater Horizon.

“[The idea was] what are the worst things that have happened to the ocean that everyone stops and volunteers their time to try and clean up,” he says. “We wanted to say that one of these oil spills is happening every day in the form of plastics.”

The visuals are also accompanied by some striking all-caps lettering that spells out the main culprits in destroying the oceans. “Who doesn’t like some good kerning?” says Brown.

Grabbing attention during COVID: “There’s no shortage of headlines in the world right now, but the plastics issue remains,” says Brown. “As much as we debated whether to hold off, the environment can’t hold off, the oceans especially. We wanted to be sensitive to the issue, which is why we treated it as delicately as we could, but at the same time it’s still a message we feel is very important.”

And we quote: “While we’re all home and safe, we’re still producing the amount of plastic waste that is contributing to the problem” —Dustin Brown, partner, head of strategy at Elemental

Chris Powell