It was back in 2007, before many of us had given more than passing thought to the bags in which we carried around our purchases. Rebecca Hosking was a freelance filmmaker working on a wildlife film when she witnessed the terrible impact of plastic.
Hundreds of albatross chicks were dying on a beach on Midway Island, a remote Hawaiian atoll. Heat split open their bloated stomachs. The contents spilling onto the sand changed Hosking’s life forever—and ours.
The birds had swallowed bottle caps, combs, pens, shopping bags, cigarette lighters, and toothbrushes. The plastics that make our modern life so easy and convenient were killing the birds. Before her journey ended, Hosking had witnessed the deaths of whales, seals and turtles, all killed by our hunger for plastic.
Angered and galvanized by what she saw, Hosking went home to Modbury in south Devon. When she finished the film for BBC, she swung into action in her town. She persuaded the town’s shopkeepers to replace the ubiquitous plastic bags with reusable cloth bags. After a six-month test period, little Modbury became the first town in Europe to ban plastic bags.
Hosking’s initiative went viral. Communities around the globe began banning plastic bags. Even in communities, such as my own Canadian town, where plastic bags are still available, most people carry their own bags when they shop and consider it entirely normal to do so.
Others were working toward this when Hosking began her campaign. But it was her storytelling and the haunting photographs she brought home that caught the imagination of the world.
Matt Schmidt interviewed Rebecca Hosking in 2007. The video is still timely and worth ten minutes of our time.