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  • 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 clogor blockdrains 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.

  • John Maguire: 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 additiveallows 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.

  • Dr Pennie Lindeque: 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 zooplanktontiny 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 itload 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.

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

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B1 UK TOEIC alice microplastics rubbish food chain chain

BBC 6 Minute English November 05, 2015 - The impact of plastic

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    Adam Huang posted on 2016/01/10
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