The impact of plastic

دوره: انگلیسی شش دقیقه ای / درس 182

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The impact of plastic

توضیح مختصر

Should we all pay for supermarket plastic bags? Neil and Alice take a look at the environmental impact of plastic and teach you some related words.

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Note: 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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