Task 1A: Exploring the What, Why, Who, and How

What are some current issues confronting our world today? Amongst them, what is of interest and a cause of concern to you?

An overarching theme in my topics of interest is Sustainability. I am most interested in Plastic Pollution.

  1. Single-Use Plastics— Plastic Pollution

Climate change has been a lurking dread that is looming over Earth. With the boom of globalization, products are cheaper and more accessible. However, there is a cost: increasing carbon emissions. According to the United Nations, we need  “… to cut emissions by half by 2030, and reach net-zero emissions by 2050”. Recycling is no longer an effective way of reducing waste: only 9% of plastic is recycled and the rest is incinerated or ends up in the ocean. The fight against single-use plastics can start from the consumer and slowly move its way up the supply chain. 





2. Deforestation and Palm Oil Industry 

Indonesia and Malaysia make up 90% of the world’s palm oil production. The rise in demand for this vegetable oil is due to its ability to substitute more expensive oils. Due to this rise in demand, over 9,600,000 million hectares of land were converted to industrial oil palm farms. Rapid deforestation leads to endangered native animals and increasing carbon emissions. With the loss of rainforests, this results in a loss of carbon sequestration. Local farmers become collateral as their livelihoods are put on the line if palm oil becomes banned.




3. Greenwashing: going zero waste

The zero-waste lifestyle has been taking social media by storm. Companies are starting to market packaging that is supposedly ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’. But, what is considered to be green and eco-friendly? Companies that claim to have sustainable practice but no evidence is found in their supply chain. They are profiting off a buzzword. Companies are creating cloth bags, stainless steel straws, bamboo utensils etc. But in reality, these products are very resource-intensive and are all part of the “perfect image” of being zero waste. Not all people can afford to go zero-waste: there is a clear economic barrier. 




4. Fast Fashion

There is a lack of accountability in the fast fashion industry: supply chains use unethical labour and raw materials. This industry is the second largest user of water in the world and produces 20% of the world’s wastewater. Fast Fashions create over 1 billion garment items a year and a majority of them are thrown to landfills; leading to chemicals, and microplastics leaching into soil and water. 



Why is the issue important? Who does it affect and how?


The topic of climate change and pollution has been talked about so much in the media, that people have become desensitized to it. It builds the mentality of “I’m only one person. I can’t make a difference”. Plastic pollution affects everyone. Although plastics provide convenience and livelihood to many, especially in developing countries where plastics are the cheapest resource to use, they take a big environmental toll. 

The rapid consumption of goods has a hidden cost to its convenience. Every-day functionalities heavily rely on single-use plastics. The United States throws away an estimated 100 billion plastic bags annually. Single-use plastic cutlery, single-use plastic plates, bags, and straws are all examples of everyday plastics. 91% of plastics are not recycled — that is 6.3 billion metric tons. Due to the size of straws and cutlery, recycling facilities cannot sort them and they end up in landfills or in the ocean. In our linear economy where everything is built to be discarded, the plastic we create comes back to haunt us through microplastics and harming marine life. The beginning of the solution is to ban single-use plastics, create economic incentives, and educating. Instead of reduce, reuse, recycle, think REFUSE, reduce, reuse, recycle. 



Who do you need to communicate to, and why?

The target audience of the issue of plastic pollution can be any part of the linear supply chain of goods.

Consumers can choose to refuse plastics in their daily routines and adopt reusable replacements for single-use plastics. A niche is the zero-waste/ low waste demographic: they are people who adopt a lifestyle where they do not purchase goods in packaging. Instead, they purchase their goods second hand and from bulk stores. This demographic needs resources to help market and educate others to understand their lifestyle and the benefits of living a low waste lifestyle.

“It might be true that single-use plastics might be cheaper than some renewable or compostable resources but it’s not really cheaper, because when you think about the environmental externality, that is attached to the cheapness there is no economic sense. “ Kifah Marin, UN Development Program

Companies can choose to adopt more sustainable practises and start to use renewable and compostable resources for their products. They would need economic incentives and sustainability professionals to provide consultations in order to improve their practises.

“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” Anne Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef.

How has visual communication contributed to addressing the cause? 

Cover by Jorge Gamboa, National Geographic, Print, 2018


The National Geographic published this cover to bring light to the issue of plastic trash crisis. The message is very clear: it says that the plastic trash crisis is much more serious that we think. The plastic in the water may also imply that beyond large pieces of plastics, there are microplastics negatively affecting marine life wellbeing. The colour choice works well with conveying the cold hard truth climate change. It utilizes contrasat very well to guide the viewer’s eye. 

Try to digest it, Natalya Zhurakovskaya, Studio 100%ART , 2019 


This magazine cover series brings attention to the epedmic of humans and marine life consuming microplastics. It juxtaposes clean and studio photos with jarring imagery of everyday food made with plastic. These covers are very engaging because of the use alarming imagery against a white background. The layout of the photography guides the viewer to see the main peice, plastic food and then the text surrounding it. 

Refill for Plastic Free Challenge,  Green Hat Studios, 2018, http://greenhat.studio/refill-plastic-free-challenge/

This poster was used in a National tap water campagian called Refill in the UK. It promoted bringing your own bottles for water and to curb plastic bottle usage. It uses a soft pastel pallete to make it look inviting. It does a great job with pairing jarring facts about pollution with friendly graphics.