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BBC 6 minute English-The impact of plastic

BBC 6 minute English-The impact of plastic

BBC 6 minute English-The impact of plastic

   

Transcript of the podcast

NB: This is not a word-for-word transcript

Alice: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m Alice

Neil: … and I’m Neil. Hello

Alice: Hello, Neil. Have you been shopping

Neil: Yes, I went a bit mad with my credit card actually

Alice: Gosh, I can see that! But look at all those plastic bags. Why don’t you use your own bags

Neil: You know what, I’m going to. Because they’re now charging 5p per bag

Alice: Don’t you follow the news, Neil? It’s a recent government initiative – which means a new plan for dealing with something – in this case, to cut the number of thin plastic bags being given away in shops. And the environmental impact of plastic is the subject of today’s show

Neil: Is England the first country to charge for these bags, Alice

Alice: No – other countries in the UK started charging a few years ago. And countries around the world including Bangladesh, South Africa, China, and Italy have actually banned them altogether

Neil: Interesting. But I don’t throw my bags away, Alice. I put them under the kitchen sink

Alice: Are you a hoarder, Neil? That means someone who collects large amounts of stuff and can’t throw things away

Neil: Maybe I am… But seriously, with the 5p charge I’m definitely going to recycle my plastic bags. Alice Good. Now let me ask you today’s quiz question, Neil: How many tonnes of plastic rubbish from the UK is being sent to China each year for recycling? Is it

a) 20,000

b) 200,000? or

c) 2,000,000

Neil: Well I think it’s … a) 20,000

Alice: We’ll find out if you’re right or wrong later on. But first, why are plastic bags bad for the environment

Neil: Because they’re too thin? And when they break all your shopping falls out? That must be it

Alice: No. They take hundreds of years to decompose – or break down by natural chemical processes. And also people don’t dispose of them properly. They litter our streets. They clog – or block – drains and sewers. They spoil the countryside and damage wildlife

Neil: Well that’s quite a list. So what’s the solution then, Alice

Alice: Well to either recycle or stop using plastic bags. But let’s hear about the pharmaceutical company with another idea. This is BBC reporter John Maguire

INSERT John Maguire, BBC reporter

At this company laboratory in North London they’re testing how bags made with a special additive break down when exposed to sunlight, oxygen and heat… The technology was discovered by a British scientist in the 1970s and is now sold to around half the world’s countries. In some, biodegradable bags are backed by law

Neil: And biodegradable means able to break down naturally in a way that isn’t harmful to the environment

Alice: So adding small amounts of a chemical to the plastic – a special additive – allows the plastic to break down in the open air. But if the technology was discovered back in the 1970s, why aren’t these biodegradable bags being used in every country by now

Neil: I have no idea, Alice. Maybe they aren’t as strong as non-biodegradable bags. I like a good strong bag, myself, you see

Alice: Alright. Well, just go and buy yourself some canvas bags, Neil! In fact, I’ll get you some for your birthday

Neil: Thank you

Alice: You’re very welcome. Now, moving on. Out of around 300 million tons of plastic produced every year, some goes in landfill – a place where our rubbish is buried under the earth – but about 10% of plastic ends up in the sea. Let’s listen to Biologist Dr Pennie Lindeque from Plymouth Marine Laboratory talking about this

INSERT Biologist Dr Pennie Lindeque from Plymouth Marine Laboratory

We’re already finding that there’s a lot of microplastics in the sea and that some of these microplastics are actually being ingested by the zooplankton that live there. We’re also concerned this could end up being passed up through the food chain to food which is destined for human consumption so it could end up on your or my plate

Neil: What are microplastics, Alice

Alice: They’re small plastic fragments less than 5mm in size. You find them in cosmetic products such as facial scrubs, shower gel, and toothpaste

Neil: And I’m guessing that ingested means eaten

Alice: Yes, the zooplankton – tiny little animals in the sea – mistake the microplastics for food and eat them. And because the zooplankton and humans are in the same food chain – they’re at the bottom and we’re at the top – but we’re still connected – we may end up eating them and the microplastics inside them

Neil: That doesn’t sound very tasty! Now a food chain, by the way, refers to a series of living things where each creature feeds on the one below it in the chain

Alice: Indeed. OK. Remember my question from earlier? I asked: How many tonnes of plastic rubbish from the UK is being sent to China each year for recycling? Is it

a) 20,000

b) 200,000? or

c) 2,000,000

Neil: And I said a) 20,000

Alice: Yes but you’re wrong, I’m afraid. The answer is b) 200,000 tonnes. And that statistic comes from the University of Cambridge in the UK

Neil: That’s a load of rubbish! Get it – load of rubbish

Alice: Very good

Neil: Can we hear today’s words again please

Alice: We certainly can. Here they are

initiative hoarder decompose clog biodegradable additive landfill microplastics ingested zooplankton food chain

Neil: Well, that brings us to the end of this 6 Minute English. We hope you enjoyed today’s environmentally-friendly programme. Please do join us again soon

Both: Bye

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