Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Hello, and welcome to 6 Minute English. I'm Neil. And I'm Rob. Now Rob, we've talked before on this programme about our love of coffee. Oh yes, indeed. I couldn't function without it. But have you ever thought about the environmental consequences of all those disposable coffee cups? Oh yes, indeed. I always carry a reusable cup with me so I don't have to throw one away. So if a disposable cup is one you throw away, a reusable one is one that you can use again and again. Yes, there is a big problem with disposable cups in that many of them can't be recycled, so there is a lot of waste for something we only use for a short time. What are the big coffee shop chains doing about this problem? We'll find out a little bit more shortly, but first, a quiz for you. Which country drinks the most coffee per capita – so not the total amount of coffee but the average per person. Is it: a) Japan b) Kenya, or c) Finland What do you think, Rob? Ooh, tricky. I don't think the Japanese are big coffee drinkers and I know they produce a lot of coffee in Kenya. I'm surprised the USA isn't on the list but I'm going to go with Finland. Just because. Well, we'll see if you're right later in the programme. On a recent BBC You and Yours radio programme they discussed the topic of coffee cups. Some of the big chains are now charging customers more for a disposable cup and giving discounts if people bring their own reusable. However not all of the shops actually collect old cups and sort them for recycling in the shop itself. Here's Jaz Rabadia from Starbucks, Is the store only interested in facilities inside their shops? It is something that we are in the process of rolling out and it will be in all of our stores. It's also not just our stores in which these cups end up. So we're doing a lot of work outside of our store environment to ensure that paper cups can be recycled on the go. We're working with our environmental charity partner Hubbub to increase recycling infrastructure outside of our stores because that too is where a lot of our cups will end up. So are they just working in their stores at improving recycling? Rob Well no, after all most people take their coffee out of the stores, so they are working on recycling infrastructure outside as well. This will be things like bins and collection points which are clearly marked for coffee cups. And what about enabling recycling cups in store? Well, she said that was something they are rolling out to all stores. Rolling out here means introducing over a period of time. So it's starting to happen but is not finished yet. Let's listen again. It is something that we are in the process of rolling out and it will be in all of our stores. It's also not just our stores in which these cups end up. So we're doing a lot of work outside of our store environment to ensure that paper cups can be recycled on the go. We're working with our environmental charity partner hubbub to increase recycling infrastructure outside of our stores because that too is where a lot of our cups will end up. Not everyone, however, believes that the coffee chains are doing everything that they can. This is Mary Creagh, a member of the British parliament. She compares the situation to that of the plastic bag charge. This was a law brought in to force shops to charge customers for plastic bags, which previously had been free. If you think you're having to pay extra for something, as we saw with the plastic bags, we think a similar psychological measure is needed, a nudge measure, to encourage people to remember to bring their reusable cup with them and of course this is something that the coffee shops have been fighting tooth and nail. Neil She thinks that we consumers need a nudge to help us remember our reusable cups. Rob Yes, we need a nudge, which is a little push, a reason. In this case, she is thinking of a law to make them charge more. But she says the coffee chains really don't want this, they are, she says, fighting it tooth and nail. If you fight something tooth and nail you are against it completely and try to stop it. Neil Let's hear MP Mary Creagh again. If you think you're having to pay extra for something, as we saw with the plastic bags, we think a similar psychological measure is needed, a nudge measure, to encourage people to remember to bring their reusable cup with them and of course this is something that the coffee shops have been fighting tooth and nail. Time to review our vocabulary, but first, let's have the answer to the quiz question. Which country drinks the most coffee per capita? Is it: a) Japan b) Kenya, or c) Finland What did you think, Rob? I took a bit of a guess at Finland. Well, congratulations, your guess was correct. The Finns on average get through an amazing 12kg of coffee a year, each. Now, onto the vocabulary. We had a couple of related but opposite words. Something disposable is designed to be used once or a few times and then thrown away and a reusable is designed to be used again and again. We then had 'rolling out' which in a business sense is the process of gradually introducing something new. This could be a new system, new product, new technology or even a new way of doing things. New ideas often need new infrastructure. This is usually physical structures that are needed to make something work, for example, rail infrastructure includes tracks, stations and signals. A nudge is a small push, to encourage us to do something. You don't need a nudge to carry a reusable coffee cup, do you? Oh, no, I'm all for it. In fact, I'd fight tooth and nail to keep hold of my reusable. Which is quite a coincidence as that was our last expression today. To fight tooth and nail means to make a strong effort to try to stop something or achieve something. Well, that's all from us. We look forward to your company next time. Until then, you can find us in all the usual places on social media, online and on our app. Just search for 'BBC Learning English'. Goodbye! Goodbye! Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I'm Neil. And I'm Sam. How are you, Neil? I've been as busy as a bee this week, Sam. Oh, don't you sound like the bee's knees! All right, Sam, there's no need to get a bee in your bonnet! As you can hear, English is full of idioms involving bees. But the sad truth is that bee numbers are declining at an alarming rate and in some places disappearing altogether. And this has serious consequences for humans. Today, one third of the food we eat depends on insects to pollinate crops, fruit and vegetables. But bees are in trouble. In some European countries up to half of all bee species are facing extinction, placing our food supply chain at risk. Bees are vital in pollinating hundreds of crops, from apples and blackberries to cucumbers. In fact, almost all plants need insects to reproduce – which is my quiz question – of the world's top 50 crops, how many rely on insect pollination? Is it: a) 35 out of 50?, b) 40 out of 50? or c) 45 out of 50? I reckon those busy bees pollinate b) 40 out of 50 of the most common crops. OK, Sam, we'll find out the answer later. Now, if you think back to your school biology lessons, you may remember that plants and flowers contain both male and female reproductive parts inside. But what exactly is going on when bees pollinate a plant? Here's Claire Bates from BBC World Service programme People Fixing the World to remind us: What is pollination? All flowering plants need it to reproduce. Pollen is moved from the male part of a flower to the female part of a flower, then fertilisation can happen causing fruit to grow. Some staple crops such as wheat, rice and corn are pollinated by the wind however many plants don't release their pollen easily and this is where insects, and especially bees, come in. As they collect nectar to eat, pollen sticks to them and they carry it from flower to flower. Pollination is the process in which pollen is taken from one plant to another so that it can reproduce. This is the important work done by bees and insects. Only after pollination can the next process occur – fertilisation - when the pollen carried from another plant fertilises a female ovule to make new seeds. Fertilisation occurs in all flowering plants, some of which like wheat, potatoes and rice are staple crops - food that is eaten in large amounts as part of a community's daily diet and provides a large fraction of their energy and nutrient needs. Fewer bees reduces pollination levels, meaning fewer new seeds are created and fewer crops grown. But it isn't just the decline in bee numbers causing a problem. Like us, bees need to rest and this has led some to come up with creative new ways of supplementing bee pollination. One such innovator is Keren Mimran, co-founder of agro-tech company, Edete. Here she is, explaining how dropping pollen from drones can pollinate crops, giving a helping hand to hard-working bees. How come our food security is so much dependent on an insect that we cannot really control? We can bring the bees to the orchard or to a field but we cannot control their behaviour. They do not come out of the hive when it's raining or when there's heavy wind, they work only during daytime. There must be a possibility of developing a mechanical solution to the pollination challenge. Keren Mimran speaking on the BBC World Service programme People Fixing The World. Bees' behaviour can't be controlled - when it rains they won't leave their hive – the structure where bees live, either built by people or made by the bees themselves. So Keren's company has developed drones to drop pollen on her orchard – an area of land on which fruit trees are grown. The need for these high-tech solutions reflects the seriousness of the pollination problem for food security -everyone getting enough affordable and nutritious food to meet their daily dietary needs. I had no idea bees were so important, Neil. Maybe I underestimated how hard they work. Ah, you mean today's quiz question. I asked you how many of the top 50 world crops rely on insect pollination. And I said b) 40 out of 50 of the top crops. And you are right! They certainly are the bee's knees when it comes to pollinating plants! So in today's programme we've been hearing about the important role bees play in pollination – transferring pollen from plant to plant, necessary for the next stage of fertilisation – producing new seeds and fruit inside a plant. Bees and insects play a vital role in growing the world's staple crops - food which, eaten in large amounts, makes up the majority of a community's daily diet and meets their nutrient needs. So bee numbers are directly linked to the issue of food security - everyone getting enough affordable, nutritious food to meet their dietary needs. Which explains why, when bees won't leave their home - or hive – some people have started using drones to pollinate their orchards – land growing fruit trees. And that's it for this edition of 6 Minute English. Bye for now! Goodbye! Hello, and welcome to 6 Minute English. I'm Neil. And hello, I'm Rob. Today we're talking about plastic. Yes, it's our addiction to plastic that is of concern because this material doesn't decay very quickly, so once we've used it, it hangs around for a very long time. It is a problem – and decay, by the way, describes the natural process of something being destroyed or breaking down into small particles. We hear so much about the consequences of having too much waste plastic around, don't we? Indeed. Not only does it cause a mess - wildlife, particularly marine animals, are at risk when they become entangled in plastic waste, or ingest it. It's an issue that needs tackling – or dealing with. And that's what we'll be discussing today and finding out what could be done to solve this plastic crisis. OK, first, let's challenge you to answer a question about plastic, Rob. The first synthetic plastic – that's plastic made entirely from man-made materials - was created over 100 years ago. Do you know what its brand name was? Was it… a) Bakelite, b) Lucite or c) Formica? I'm no expert, so I'll say c) Formica. Well, we'll reveal the answer at the end of the programme. Now let's talk more about plastic. This man-made substance is everywhere - from clothing to crisp packets, and bottles to buckets. But the problem is that most of it isn't biodegradable – that's a word that describes something that can decay naturally without harming anything. Each year, 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced and 40% of that is single-use. So why don't we stop using it? It's not that easy, Rob, and it's something Lucy Siegle, a BBC reporter and author, has been talking about. She was speaking in a discussion on the Costing the Earth programme on BBC Radio 4, and explained the issue we have with quitting plastic but also how our attitude is changing… We have this weird psychological attachment to this material that's been around and it's like a push and pull. At the one time, we're so horrified by what we're seeing – the whales dying, the oceans vomiting plastic, beaming in from all over the world, and at the same time we're being told we can't live without it, so that creates a psychological dissonance –which I think is the barrier to behavioural change but I'm finding now awareness has peaked and it's going over into activism. She mentioned the word psychological – that's something that affects or involves our mind – so here, psychological attachment means that in our mind we feel we have to use plastic – we're addicted. But we also see the negative impact of plastic – like whales dying – and in our mind we're also thinking we must stop! This has created what Lucy says is a 'psychological dissonance' - dissonance means a disagreement between two opposing ideas – so we're having an argument in our head about the right thing to do – this is the 'push and pull' of thoughts she referred to. And this dissonance has been the barrier to us trying to solve the plastic issue – but now we're starting to do something about it – we're taking action to reduce our plastic waste – we're turning to activism. That's taking action to change something – it could be social or political change, or a change in our behaviour or attitude. Of course there has been a big push – that means people have been strongly encouraged – to recycle. Maybe in an ideal world the best thing to do is go plastic-free – but that isn't easy, is it? No, it isn't, and it's something Lucy Siegle spoke about. Getting rid of plastic in our lives is a gradual process. But where does she think we can make the biggest difference? I really think that to concentrate on stopping the flow of plastics into your life is easier and more effective in the long term, than trying to go plastic-free from the outset. We are in the UK, a supermarket culture, so a lot of the tips and tricks to decreasing the flow of plastic are getting round supermarket culture. She says we have a supermarket culture in the UK. Culture here describes a way of life – or a way that we generally behave – and in terms of food shopping, we tend to do that in supermarkets. So, for example, customers can make a big difference by putting pressure on supermarkets to use less plastic packaging. It does seem that the future of plastic is in our hands – we need to be more careful about how and when we use it – and use our collective power to force change if it's needed. But there's no doubt plastic is useful for many things so it will be a long time before it disappears altogether. And earlier I asked you what was the name of the first synthetic plastic, invented over a 100 years ago. Was it… a) Bakelite, b) Lucite or c) Formica? And I said c) Formica. Was I right? Formica is a type of hard plastic used for covering tables and working areas in kitchens – but it's not the oldest type. That was Bakelite. I may have got that wrong but hopefully I'll have more success recapping some of today's vocabulary – starting with decay, which describes the natural process of something being destroyed or breaking down into small particles – which plastic takes a long time to do. Next, we had biodegradable – that's a word to describe something that can decay naturally without harming anything.