The Sunday Magazine

Banning plastic from one supermarket aisle

British businesswoman Sian Sutherland wants to make a dent in the volume of plastic waste polluting the world's oceans by encouraging supermarkets to ban plastic from one aisle.
A variety of plastic bottles in a bin at a recycling center in Portland, Ore., Thursday, May 24, 2007. (Greg Wahl-Stephens/Associated Press)

Off the west coast of Norway, an emaciated whale was found stranded in shallow water.

Wardens put the animal out of its distress, and a group of zoologists arrived on the scene to investigate. They were shocked to discover that instead of food, the whale had a mound of plastic waste in its stomach, including 30 plastic bags.

Plastic is found in beached whales around the world, but this was a particularly alarming case. It served as a reminder of the environmental effects of our addiction to plastic: plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic wrap.

The effects are perhaps most visible in the oceans. The Great Pacific garbage patch is a swirling vortex of plastic that is the size of the state of Texas.

That, in a clamshell, is the backdrop for a new environmental campaign in Britain, called A Plastic Planet. It was founded by Sian Sutherland, a businesswoman who created a popular line of skin care products.  

A Plastic Planet is gaining traction for its singular, simple idea: a proposal that every grocery store should set aside one aisle that is entirely plastic-free.

Click the button above to hear Michael's interview with Sian Sutherland. 


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