How LADbible got people to fight plastic pollution by creating a country

LADbible’s social responsibility campaign ‘Trash Isles’ rallied people to take action against the growing plastic problem by declaring a mass of waste the size of France a country in order get it recognised by the UN and therefore cleaned up.

Reducing plastic waste has been high on the agenda for businesses this year, many of which were shocked into action after seeing the BBC’s Blue Planet II.

But LADbible was ahead of the curve when it launched its social responsibility campaign ‘Trash Isles’ last year, which aimed to empower young people to lobby the United Nations to acknowledge the issue.

There is now so much plastic waste that an area the size of France has formed in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii. LADbible joined forces with the Plastic Oceans Foundation to turn the mass into the world’s 196th nation called Trash Isles. It then submitted a Declaration of Independence to the United Nations to seek recognition so Trash Isles is viewed as an official country.

It did this because if Trash Isles is recognised as a country and a member of the UN it will be protected by the UN’s Environmental Charter, which states: “All members shall co-operate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect and restore the health and integrity of the Earth’s ecosystem”. That means, in theory, that other countries will have to help clean it up.

But to be recognised as a country Trash Isles needed citizens, so LADbible, working with AMV BBDO, created everything from an official flag and a currency called Debris, to passports created by recycled material. It then launched a three-month campaign to get people behind the cause, which won the PR and Brand Storytelling Award at the Marketing Week Masters.

At the same time, LADbible published an article detailing the scale of the plastic problem and an online video featuring actor Ross Kemp, which was shared across all LADbible’s social channels, encouraging people to register as a citizen of the Trash Isles. It also included other video content, news articles, posters and events.

Within 60 days of launching, the campaign had reached 250 million people, and was even picked up by former US Vice President and environmental activist Al Gore, who became Trash Isles’ first honorary citizen, followed by Dame Judy Dench (who offered to be queen), Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and actor Chris Hemsworth.

To date, more than 10 videos have been published across LADbible’s social channels that have been viewed by 37.3 million people, while 12 editorial articles also created a reach of 18 million, 25% more than targeted for.

Perhaps most importantly, Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesman for the United Nations Secretary-General, praised the campaign as “a very innovative and creative way to bring attention to a problem that is often not seen given the location of these piles of trash, but a problem of polluting the oceans and killing life in the oceans”.