2018 has been a big year for taking on plastic pollution. Seattle ditched plastic straws, New Zealand banned plastic bags, and countless individuals took important steps to reducing their reliance on plastic.
Given all the progress that has been made in the fight against plastic pollution, it doesn’t come as much of a shock to us that “single-use” is the word of the year for Collins Dictionary.
Single-use plastics have taken the brunt of the heat in 2018, with more and more people realizing that many of these plastics either can’t or aren’t being recycled, and even worse, improper disposal methods have them entering the natural environment, including the ocean. ‘Single-use’ doesn’t necessarily have to mean single-use plastics, but Collins does recognize the environmental overtone:
‘Single-use,’ a term that describes items whose unchecked proliferation are blamed for damaging the environment and affecting the food chain, has been named Collins’ Word of the Year 2018.
Single-use refers to products—often plastic—that are ‘made to be used once only’ before disposal. Images of plastic adrift in the most distant oceans, such as straws, bottles, and bags have led to a global campaign to reduce their use.
The word has seen a four-fold increase since 2013, with news stories and images such as those seen in the BBC’s Blue Planet II steeply raising public awareness of the issue.
So how does a word get selected as word of the year? A team of Lexicographers at Collins Dictionary monitors how frequently more than four and a half billion words are used and bases its decision on that data. ‘Single-use’ was in the running alongside MeToo, vegan, and plogging, the latter of which is a combination activity of picking up litter while jogging.
“This year, environmental issues rise to the top with words such as ‘single-use’ and ‘plogging,’ accompanied by political movements, dance trends and technology,” Collins Dictionary wrote in a blog post.
Much of the time, the word of the year is something that rose to the attention of the public as a whole. 2016’s word of the year was ‘Brexit’ and 2017’s was ‘fake news.’