‘Plastic’ is the word of the year as pupils show their concern for the environment

Written by: Emma Lee-Potter | Published:

“Plastic” has been declared children’s word of the year, with thousands of youngsters featuring it in their creative writing.

Everyone from the Queen to the BBC has outlawed single-use plastics like straws and bottles after David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II highlighted the damaging effect plastic pollution is having on marine life.

Now it turns out that children have taken the environmental message to heart too.

“Plastic” has been declared children’s word of the year, with thousands of youngsters featuring it in their creative writing.

The trend emerged after the Oxford University Press analysed entries to BBC Radio 2’s annual 500 Words competition for children aged 13 and under.

Entrants were asked to write an original work of fiction using no more than 500 words. The competition attracted 134,790 stories and the winners were revealed live on Chris Evans’ Radio 2 breakfast show earlier this month.

The word “plastic” appeared a total of 3,359 times in children’s stories – a rise of 100 per cent on last year’s competition.

One boy wrote: “An empty plastic bottle they had discarded bobbed up and down at the water’s edge. The pull of the tide gradually lured it further and further out to sea with each rise and swell of the waves. Yet another unwelcome plastic alien invader in the beautiful big blue sea that one less whale now calls home.”

Words like recycling, packaging, pollution, plastic bottle, plastic bag and plastic waste also increased by more than 100 per cent, while adjectives like biodegradable and permeable featured for the first time. Other words and names that proved popular were Emmeline Pankhurst, Donald Trump, Brexit, Korea, Grenfell Tower, unicorns, slime and the computer game Fortnite.

Vineeta Gupta, head of children’s dictionaries at Oxford University Press, said: “Language empowers children, giving them a voice to express their passions and opinions.

“Children have shown they are acutely aware of the impact plastic has on our environment and how it will affect their own future.”


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