‘Single-use’ is Word of the Year 2018

Collins Dictionary has chosen ‘single-use’ as its word of the year, reflecting the increasing awareness of and growing action against plastic pollution. 

‘Single-use’, which means ‘made to be used only once’ and generally refers to plastic products that are thrown away after use, beat ‘vegan’, ‘plogging’ and ‘floss’ as this year’s word of the year. 

Lexicographers from Collins Dictionary monitored a 4.5 billion corpus to create their annual shortlist of new and notable words that ‘reflect an ever-evolving culture and the preoccupations of those who use it’, which this year included plogging, vegan, floss, backstop, gammon, gaslight, MeToo, VAR and whitewash.

The fact that single-use is the word of the year suggests that there is a growing awareness of the issues of waste pollution.  The dictionary discovered there has been a four-fold increase in usage of ‘single-use’ since 2013, crediting news stories such as the EU single-use plastic ban and a proposed plastic tax in the UK, as well as documentaries such as BBC’s Blue Planet II and Drowning in Plastic for raising public awareness of this environmental issue.  ‘Single-use’ was therefore selected as #CollinsWOTY 2018 as it ‘encompasses a global movement to kick our addiction to disposable products. From plastic bags, bottles and straws to washable nappies, we have become more conscious of how our habits and behaviours can impact the environment.’

Another shortlisted word relating to a growing concern with humanity’s impact on the environment was  ‘plogging’ – a term with Swedish roots that combines jogging with picking up litter, to improve both your health and the environment. Plogging is an amalgamation of the Swedish word ‘ploka’, which means to pick, and ‘jogging’. 

Vegan – a noun to describe a person who refrains from using any animal products for food, clothing or other purpose – was also shortlisted, after environmental concerns have led to an decrease in meat consumption

“2018 was, without question, the year of the eco-warrior,” said the dictionary. “In the aftermath of David Attenborough’s visually stunning – and somewhat shocking Blue Planet II – which aired at the end of 2017, sustainability became a pressing issue on the public consciousness. 

Political and culturally-charged terms also made it into the shortlist this year:  ‘gammon’ – a way of describing a person (often middle-aged and white) with reactionary views, especially one who supports the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union; ‘MeToo’, which reflects a cultural movement that seeks to expose and eradicate predatory sexual behaviour, especially in the workplace; and ‘gaslight’, which means to attempt to manipulate someone by continually presenting them with false information until they doubt their sanity, were also shortlisted.

Take steps to cut down on single-use plastic with our 10 simple swaps to cut down on plastic at homePlastic-free ear buds and other beauty swaps and 5 simple changes to take your business plastic free.

Read our guides to planning a plastic-free wedding, and where to start when it comes to Plastic-free food.