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What do people really know and want to know about plastic and health?

Image by Nareeta Martin from Unsplash

People are aware — but they want to know more.

  • Dominant knowledge on the effects of plastic on human health are keywords such as “burning rubbish” which went from 332 average searches in 2019 to 509 in 2020. Another keyword is “burning plastic” from 538 average searches in 2018 to 660 in 2019. Finally, related to human health searches for “eating plastic” went from 130 in 2018 to 156 in 2019 then dropped to 136 in 2020.
  • A keyword that has experienced the highest increase is “polypropylene dangerous for health” (238%). This growing search could be attributed to COVID-19 as polypropylene is in single-use face masks.
  • Keywords that emerged — or seeing more interest in by 100% each — are “plastic smoke inhalation”, “plastic pollution on human health”, and “plastic pollution and human health”.
  • In 2019, searches for “ill effects of polythene” decreased by 25% but in the last year, it has surged by 191%. Along with this, “polypropylene health hazards” grew the most by 254%.
  • Search keywords that are trending in relation to plastics and human health are “ill effects of plastic” (25%), “pvc risks” (18%), and “effects of eating plastic” (9%). In 2019, these keywords had decreased by 0%, 3%, and 8%, respectively, but grew again in 2020.
  • In 2020, people’s awareness increased with keywords around basic knowledge of plastic and human health. In particular, “plastic in your body”, “plastic human health” and “plastic harmful to human health” grew by 100% each.

2. Interest tripled in the last year

3. What’s Next?

  • Information on specific plastics — Campaigns can share information on effects of specific types of plastic. In particular, COVID-19 may have sparked interest in plastics used in single-use masks. Campaigns can focus on how plastic pollution is affected during COVID-19 and what lifestyle changes can be made (e.g. use cloth masks).
  • In the UK, partner with local sustainable businesses — Create a coalition or partner campaigns with local businesses that use sustainable practices. This will continue to raise awareness on plastic pollution but also give people alternate choices that are locally supported. Along with local, also shedding light on international brands that are purpose-driven and advocate for a sustainable supply chain. These businesses can use the search keywords that grew (e.g.
  • In the Netherlands, focus on keywords that spiked — In the last year, keywords like “polypropylene dangerous for health” and “plastic smoke inhalation” have grown significantly. Organizations and climate allies should harness this by redirecting people to the right information and action-oriented advice.



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