Black Plastic In The Sea Is Today's Spoken English Material
This weeks English speaking practice podcast lesson contains some excellent spoken English material. It talks of plastic, the sea and single use nappies. The podcast packs a lot of interesting conversational English into 10 minutes. As always, we provide a full transcript of the English material used in the Audio. Both PDF and MP3 resources are free to download right now.
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Hi, I’m Hilary and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. If you would like to improve your spoken English language, then there is no better way to learn to be fluent than to listen to and understand lots of spoken English. There’s lots more where this came from, as we say – and there are lots of different topics that we cover. Also have a look at our website and read up about our courses – you’ll find that they will help you with English conversation.
So just how much has our awareness of ‘single use plastics’ grown in 2018? Do you remember our podcast from earlier in the year about single use drinking straws? A straw is the long, thin thing that you can use to drink your cocktail or your lemonade. We told you about a brilliant idea to replace plastic drinking straws with pasta straws? Well that podcast is called ‘You Need to Stop Using Single Use Plastic’ and it went out in May this year. That podcast is a good one to listen to, if you haven’t heard it already. ‘Single use’ means items that you use only once and then you throw them away.
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There’s an acknowledgement that it would be very difficult to stop using plastic altogether, but we could start by targeting those uses of plastic where it’s a one-use only item and then it’s thrown away. There was a similar theme about Walkers crisp packets a few weeks ago, which are in fact partly plastic – in the podcast ‘Why Aren’t Crisps in Recyclable Packaging?’
The problem for the environment – for nature – with plastics used in packaging and throwaway items, is that they’re around in the environment for such a long time after you’ve used them. So for example, you know the kind of plastic bag that you put your shopping in? Well, if you throw that away, it’ll be 10-20 years before it’s decomposed – ‘decomposed’ means broken down, so that you can’t see it any more. So in the UK, we’ve started charging 5p per plastic bag, to put people off from using them. But what about an aluminium can – the sort that you drink your coke from? Well, that’s around for 200 years after you’ve thrown it away.
Tin cans are slightly better – that’s only 50 years. Disposable nappies – the sort that you put on babies bottoms? 450 years to bio-degrade, to decompose. And it’s a similar length of time for a plastic bottle – 450 years. And glass bottles – one estimate says a possible 4,000 years for it to bio-degrade.
As with all our spoken English exercises we really want you to listen to them many times
And there’s another problem. When we say ‘bio-degrade’ or ‘decompose’, what do we mean? The verb ‘to biodegrade’ means to disappear into the environment, to break down. But in practice what does it mean? Well, it depends. If it’s an apple core that’s biodegrading – that means the middle part of the apple which you throw away - then on the whole an apple core bio-degrades into the environment and that’s not too bad. The same with a cardboard box – it’s made of fairly natural materials so it disappears into the natural environment. Becomes part of it, if you like. But if you’re talking about a plastic bottle bio-degrading – then the problem is perhaps worse, once the bottle has bio-degraded.
It’s not actually disappearing and becoming part of nature again. No. What’s happened is that all those little bits of plastic, particularly if they’re in the sea, just break down into smaller and smaller pieces. They’re still pieces of plastic, they’re still there – it’s just that eventually, they’re so small, they’re so tiny that you can’t see them any more. And then they’re small enough for fish or animals or us even to swallow when we drink water. So really there’s nothing particularly eco-friendly about bio-degrading plastic. It’s just means that you can’t see the problem and it becomes virtually impossible to collect the pieces. At least with whole plastic bottles, you can see where they are and possibly remove them.
If you do not understanding all of the words you hear, download the spoken material PDF transcript and work through all of the words you are struggling with
Now I don’t want to just make you feel guilty or bad for using a plastic bottle. And I know what it’s like to have babies – and disposable nappies – nappies or diapers that you throw in the bin afterwards are so much lot easier than the ones that you wash. But in the UK, you can buy nappies that bio-degrade, that are better for the environment, called ‘Nature Boy and Girl’. But I realise these options are not available everywhere. You may live in a country where you can’t buy these things. And if you have a busy life and you just want to buy your normal food shopping, it’s currently almost impossible to do that without there being lots of single use plastics bought along with your food. It’s really difficult to buy food, without buying packaging. So this isn’t about making you feel bad. But it’s good if we can all ask the companies who make the items, who sell the goods, to think about their packaging. It’s only if customers show that we think it’s important that companies will consider making their packaging less plastic.
One of the things that’s happening in the UK at the moment – some of the supermarkets have promised to cut the amount of black plastic that they use in their food packaging. And this is because the machines, the automatic sorting machines – which separate out our plastic recycling – they can’t see black plastic. So because black plastic cannot be sorted, cannot be processed by these machines, it means that it often ends up in the rubbish, in ‘land fill’. ‘Land fill’ is where our ordinary rubbish goes, the things that we throw away, which can’t be recycled. Basically it just gets either buried under the ground or left on a big rubbish pile somewhere. And lots of our food comes in black plastic packaging, where really, any other colour would be better.
Remember if you are not interested in this podcast topic we have hundreds more to choose from here
A similar thing is happening in gardening. If you enjoy your garden and you buy new plants to put in your garden, it’s very likely that the plants come in black plastic pots. So once again, they don’t recycle because the pots are black. But plants can be grown in any colour of pot really – they don’t have to be black. So the companies who grow plants are being encouraged to use different coloured pots to help with recycling. If you’re like me and you like to get gardening in the summer, then these pots seem to multiply – so it will be really good, to know that we can recycle them.
The clean up operation in the sea which was in the news – trying to ‘net’ the plastics – is also an interesting idea. Boyan Slat is a Dutch inventor and entrepreneur, who set up an organisation to raise money to clean up the sea. The idea is to try to clean up areas of the world’s oceans where millions of plastic bottles collect. The bottles tend to end up in the same areas of the sea because of currents, because of flows of water in the sea that push the bottles into the same place. Well, his idea is that many of the plastic bottles in the sea can be collected before they break down into tiny pieces. His project – so Boyan Slat – his project is called The Ocean Cleanup, if you want to read more.
And what about this idea from Norway? There, every time you drink….you have a drink or you buy a drink in a plastic bottle, you pay one Krone extra. Then when you’ve finished your drink, you put it into the bottle bank and you get a credit note for one Krone – effectively you get back your money. If the manufacturers – that means the makers of the bottled drinks – agree to join this scheme, they pay the government less tax. So it works for everyone! In Norway this has resulted in 97% of the plastic bottles being recycled. 97%!! That would help our world plastic problem if we were all doing something like this! Just so much better!
Anyway, hopefully you can spread this information, tell other people. The more people who are aware of it, the better and the more likely we can make things change!
Anyway, enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
The environment is important to us all and if all 7 billion people who live on this planet, do something small it will add up to make a difference. So please have a think about the plastics you might use today and if you can use less or even something different.
Now you might not be that interested in plastics or the environment but try not to lose sight of the purpose of the English material in this podcast. This podcast is full of everyday UK spoken English conversation. It contains British English phrases, vocabulary and language that will be of use to you if you want to speak English.
Download the audio material to your phone and listen to the podcast as many times as you can until you can hear all the words and train your brain to understand what you hear without translation. Good luck!