A state the size of France completely surrounded by trash?

Sounds unbelievable, doesn't it? However, the giant cluster of small plastic particles the size of France can become a real state thanks to the LADbible 2017 campaign. It already has its own currency, postage stamps, passports, and first citizens.

The so-called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” has already long existed in the Pacific. In fact the Trash Isles resemble a giant accumulation of small plastic particles; they are also sometimes called the “garbage continent”. It is impossible to walk along this “continent”, it is not visible from space, the stain of garbage formed by ocean currents is too rarefied. However, it causes significant damage to marine animals and the environment.

It is still not clear what we should do with this enormous accumulation of plastic trash. Different groups of ecologists offered their solutions, including the creation of special traps for the subsequent processing of plastic, but none of them was ever implemented.

In 2017 a social media and entertainment company LADbible briefed one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world AMV BBDO to create a unique PR campaign to tell the young generation about the current state of plastic pollution. The campaign’s website claims that the so-called trash continent is already so dense with garbage in some areas that it has already begun to turn into a “solid ground”.

Can the #TrashIsles actually become a real state?

Being deeply sympathetic to the environmental situation LADbible Group launched a campaign that calls upon the UN to recognize the Trash Isles as an actual state. As envisioned by the campaign creators a large-scale action should help draw attention to the catastrophic condition our planet is in now. They decided to turn garbage islands into a full-fledged state, denoting the scale of the problem and recalling that the size of garbage conglomerates in the ocean already exceeds the size of France. To qualify for statehood, a new country must have a certain population, territory, a government, and the ability to interact with other states. The Trash Isles already had territorial boundaries. The missing criteria of becoming a real state were provided to the Trash Isles by the AMV BBDO staff Michael Hughes and Dalatando Almeida: together with the design department of the agency they created a local currency called “fragments”, invented postage stamps and passport design, as well as the flag and the name of the state — the Trash Isles.

As part of the action, a petition on Change.org was also launched. Over 240,000 signatures had already been collected at the time of this writing — everyone who signed the petition became a citizen of the islands. The results of the petition-signing were sent to the UN in the sumemr of 2018.

If the Garbage Continent becomes a country and a member of the UN, it will be protected by the charter of the environmental protection organization, which states: “All UN member states should cooperate in the spirit of a global partnership to preserve, protect and restore the Earth’s ecosystem”.
The not-yet-recognized Trash Isles already have an official flag, its own currency called Debris and an official passport made from recycled materials.

Unfortunately, many legislators say that the request is unlikely to be fulfilled. However, the main goal of the creators of the “junk state” is not to create a new country — they are in fact struggling with the problem of environmental pollution. Surprisingly enough, Change.org users took the idea seriously enough. They started sharing the petition with their friends and posting campaign videos on various social networks. Some of them even came up with funny proposals concerning the campaign. For example, one of the users offered to send a team of the new state to the World Cup.

Public support for the #TrashIsles

The Trash Isles campaign is supported by the joint foundation LADbible and Plastic Oceans. It is rapidly gaining momentum thanks to the assistance of former US Vice President Al Gore, who declared himself the first citizen of the Trash Isles as well as the British athlete and Olympic champion Mohammed Farah. Other celebrities, namely Dame Judi Dench, Chris Hemsworth, Pharrell Williams, Gal Gadot, Brandon Flowers, Ezra Miller, Mark Ruffalo, Jeff Goldblum, Lethal Bizzle, Andy Serkis, Jason Momoa and Gerard Butler joined the campaign and became honorary citizens of the Trash Isles.

“We want to make this country as small as possible (the Trash Isles). We don’t want its territories to expand with new plastic waste,- commented Al Gore. — We have to start using biodegradable materials instead of garbage! 50 billion tons over the last 60, 70 years. It’s completely outrageous. It is absolutely harming the oceans and actually, some of it shows up in the fish people eat now. It’s disgusting!”

The face of the campaign as well as one of its main supporters is a famous Brittish journalist Ross Kemp. He became one of the first citizens of the Trash Isles (right after Al Gore) and is still actively promoting the campaign through his official twitter account and giving impressive speech about plastic pollution at different conferences.

Stephen May, the head of the campaign at the LADbible Group, says: “The goal of the Trash Isles campaign is to support tens of thousands of people around the world who are ready to become citizens of “the trash state ”by signing our online petition. We will present the results to the UN so that they will approve an application for the creation of a new state. ”

What is so special about the #TrashIsles campaign?

In the summer of 2018 the Trash Isles campaign won a Gran Prix in PR and Design at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. According to the jury of the festival, the main reason the Trash Isles received an award was because the campaign team managed to deliver a serious message with an unexpectedly creative approach. Not only did the AMV BBDO came up with an inovative solution to raise awareness of the problem of plastic pollution but they conducted the campaign professionally enough to meet all the the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States criterias to lobby UN to acknowledge the Trash Isles as an official state. Moreover, the team succeeded in getting celebrities and officials involved in the case. Jury president of the festival Johnny Tan described the campaign as “extremely brave” and “extremely challenging”. Despite the success, the campaign staff say that creative recognition was never the point of their work.

“It’s only making more noise around the subject matter, which is what we want,” Delatando Almeida says.

What is also very important, AMV BBDO and LADbible Group chose the right platform to launch the Trash Isle campaign. The main aim of it, as it has already been stated below, was to raise awareness of plastic pollution problem. First of all, among young generation. It is known that youngsters are more politically engaged online. That is why starting the campaign with publishing a viral video on Youtube was the right strategy for this initiative. Very soon the campaign team started posting theme related content on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. After some time there was plenty of media coverage of the Trash Isles even in very respected and credible online and printed periodicals. For example, The National Geographic published an informed arcticle about the campaign soon after its launch.

Officle data collected by AMV BBDO crew shows that the Trash Isles campaign reached around billion people. An amazing result. What is more, search volumes on Google for search queries related to the topic of plastic pollution increased by more than 150% in a nine month time after the campaign was launched.

As for the official petition, its results exceeded all expectations. In the first week of the campaign around 100,000 signatures were collected. Today, with over 240,000 "citizens", the population of the Trash Isles is higher than the population of Samoa which accounted to less than 195,000 people in 2017.

However, one of the most exciting things about the campaign is the fact that it not only helped to rise awareness of the ocean plastic pollution problem but also changed the lives of its creators. “It changed us,” Michael Hughes says. He and his colleague Delatando Almeida started bringing recyclable bottles to work and buying special recycle bins for their homes. Their example was soon followed by their colleagues.

But is plastic pollution really such a big deal?

Yes, it definitely is. According to BBC, during just 65 years the humanity managed to produce around 8.3 billion tons of plastics. To compare, around 25,000 New York skyscrapers of Empire State Building or 1 billion elephants have the same weight.

More than 70% of all plastic produced in the world is now storing in landfills or simply littering the environment, first of all the world’s oceans. Plastic trash is one of the main threats to the world’s oceans, along with increasing sea levels, higher water temperatures, and pollution of the sea environment. Solving this problem is in the interest of the whole mankind including the governments. According to the same media outlet, if governments of different countries manage to save ocean biodiversity, they can receive various benefits from its development, for example, new raw materials or even cancer medication.

In 2018 around 380 million tons of plastic a year are produced worldwide. From 1950 to 2018, about 6.3 billion tons of plastic was produced, about 9% of which was recycled, and 12% was burnt. A huge amount of plastic waste inevitably enters the environment, and scientists suggest that the bodies of 90% of all seabirds contain plastic. They also warn that by the year of 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean.

According to the official website of the campaign, plastic can tremendously affect humans directly as well. The scariest thing is that the chemicals in plastic can be absorbed by our bodies. One study carried out in the US found that 93 percent of Americans over the age of six tested positive for BPA (a chemical found in plastic) and, as yet, there’s no knowing what effect that could be having on our health.

The Trash Isles campaign is exactly the type of PR project our overloaded mediasphere lacks. Campaigns raising awareness of socialy important problems are not only a part of entertainment but also a huge part of educating the world's population. It's high time for action, time to make a move and show your concern. The next time you are about to buy a plastic item, if you can, take a moment to stop and ask yourself: is there a better way I can do this?

Make it better!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store