25/06/19 - RADIO: The Life Scientific: Plastic pollution with Richard Thompson(28 mins) A Professor of Marine Biology who was not particularly academic at school, Richard Thompson went to university after running his own business selling greetings cards for seven years. When the rest of the world was waking up to the harm caused to marine life by larger plastic items, such as plastic bags, he searched for tiny fragments of plastic, some no bigger than a human hair; and found them in oceans and on beaches all over the world. He has spent decades studying the harm these micro-plastics might cause to marine life and is concerned. His work on plastics in cosmetics led to a UK ban on micro-beads in shower gels and exfoliating scrubs. And he advised government to ban single use plastic bags from supermarkets. Rather than demonize plastic, however, he believes we need to learn to love it more. Often plastic it is the best material for the job. Now we need to make sure that all plastic products are designed so that they can be easily recycled at the end of their useful life.

04/06/19 - Waitrose launches packaging-free trial Oxford store offers refillable options for items such as alcohol, rice and cleaning materials

27/02/19 - Glastonbury festival bans plastic bottles With its sea of discarded tents and litter-strewn fields, Glastonbury has become almost as infamous for the mountain of rubbish left in its wake as it is renowned for its music. The organisers said they were encouraging all festivalgoers to use a reusable water bottle and refill it at the free water taps around the site. They said they would also increase the number of WaterAid kiosks on the site where people can refill their bottles or get a free cup of water. Water and soft drinks in recyclable cans will be available to buy from all traders who previously sold soft drinks in plastic bottles, while they will continue to recycle any recyclable waste plastics on site.

24/10/18 - RADIO: Costing the Earth - Plasticphobia Could the war on plastic have unintended consequences for the environment? Tom Heap reports.

01/10/18 - Environmental impact of corn-based plastics. How does corn-based plastic stand up against its petroleum based counterpart?

12/09/18 - Swindon-based company Recycling Technologies plans to place its first chemical recycling machine at Binn Eco Park, Perthshire, Scotland. Capable of recycling 7,000 metric tons (more than 7,700 short tons) per year of mixed plastic waste, Recycling Technologies’ RT7000 machine will be added to Binn Eco Park in mid-2019, converting plastic waste back to Plaxx, an oil used to make new polymers. According to Recycling Technologies’ report, the company is creating capacity to recycle more plastics, including those considered unrecyclable, such as films, colored and laminated plastics, crisp packets and food pouches.

08/09/18 - Non-profit organisation OceanCleanup launching the first of 60 systems which will passively use the ocean currents to collect the garbage from the North Pacific gyre - the largest of the five gyres of plastic in the oceans. They hope to clear up half of the North Pacific gyre within 5 years.

30/08/18 - This New Biodegradable Plastic Could Go Straight In Your Compost Bin The teams at University College Dublin (UCD) and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) found that a new blend of biodegradable plastic can degrades under “typical home-composting conditions” - making it perfect for heaping on the garden. Studying 15 different biodegradable plastics and mixtures of these plastics, the team looked at which had the greatest biodegrading potential in a range of different environments. They found that blending together two types of biodegradable plastic .- polycaprolactone and polylactic acid - which typically need high temperatures for breakdown and so are not home-compostable, created a new type plastic that could be disposed of in a compost bin at home.

25/06/18 - Morrisons' paper bag switch is bad for global warming, say critics Production and disposal of paper bags has greater climate impact than plastic, says Environment Agency. Experts have criticised Morrisons’ decision to switch from plastic to paper bags for fruit and vegetables, branding it a retrograde step for efforts to tackle climate change. This week the supermarket ditched transparent plastic bags in favour of recyclable paper ones, in a move it said was prompted by customers’ worries over pollution. But the step is likely to have unintended consequences and trade one environmental challenge for another.

15/06/18 - Food waste is going to take over the fashion industry The startup Circular Systems is pioneering new tech to convert food crop waste–like banana peels and hemp stalks–into wearable fibers. Isaac Nichelson, a three-decade veteran of the sustainable fashion industry, learned of the magnitude of this waste and saw an opportunity. Food crop waste like banana by-products, pineapple leaves, flax and hemp stalk, and the waste from crushing sugar cane can be collected and spun into a natural fiber that can be woven into garments. While this concept is progressive, it’s really a reversion to the past–as recently as 1960, 97% of the fibers we used in garments and materials were naturally derived. Today, it’s only around 35%.

14/05/18 - RADIO: Plastic Fantastic: Part 3 - What's the solution? (28 mins) The solutions to the problem of plastic pollution and plastic waste lie in many directions. A global plan to stop littering will go a long way. But human behaviour change often needs some economic intervention. One idea by the UK government and many others around the world, is to give a little financial incentive in the form of deposits on plastic bottles, or taxation on single use plastic like coffee cups, food wrapping and plastic bags. Mark Miodownik investigates some of the scientific solutions such as alternatives to petrochemical plastic using microbes or plant materials, clever waste sorting technologies to help make the process easier, even using less plastic. And he hopefully untangles some of the confusing messages about plastic and comes up with ways to be plastic smart.

12/05/18 - Are cotton totes better for the Earth than plastic bags? It depends on what you care about. Of course the answer is never easy.

11/05/18 - The bike graveyards of China Bike-sharing businesses have taken China by storm. But the trend has brought a problem - huge piles of abandoned bicycles. Now some cities want to get tough.

12/03/18 - Microplastics are 'littering' riverbeds Microscopic plastic beads, fragments and fibres are littering riverbeds across the UK - from rural streams to urban waterways. This is according to a study that analysed sediments from rivers in north-west England. Scientists from the University of Manchester tested river sediments at 40 sites throughout Greater Manchester and found "microplastics everywhere".

06/03/18 - A surprising new afterlife for chewing gum British designer Anna Bullus is on a mission to recycle chewing gum into useful objects, cleaning up our streets in the process. More than £14bn is spent on chewing gum around the world each year, but a lot of that gum will end up stuck to the ground. Gum is the second most common type of street litter after cigarette materials. In the UK, councils spend around £50m each year cleaning up the mess. But Anna had an idea. What if the sticky stuff could actually be recycled and turned into useful objects?

06/02/18 - Are biodegradable plastics better for the environment? Plastics are indispensable in many areas of our modern lives, yet questions over the material’s sustainability are rarely out of the headlines these days. Are biodegradable, compostable and bio-plastics really a better environmental solution? Richard McKinlay, Head of Circular Economy at Axion, offers his opinion. Plastic materials that at end of life can completely break down naturally and disappear harmlessly may sound like the ideal answer. People hear terms such as ‘biodegradable’, ‘bio-plastic’ and ‘compostable’ and assume that these plastics are more ‘environmentally-friendly’. However, the reality is not so simple.

24/01/18 VIDEO: The Man Clearing 9,000 Tons of Trash From Mumbai’s Beaches After watching his childhood beach devastated by trash, Afroz Shah took matters into his own hands. What started off as a personal mission turned into the largest beach cleanup in the world. (3 mins)

17/01/18 - The plastic-free stores showing the big brands how to do it Retailers at the vanguard of Britain’s zero-waste movement say business is booming, so why are major supermarkets not doing more to cut plastic waste?

11/01/18 - May’s plastic plan is big on gimmicks, but it won’t cut waste The strategy ignores a critical issue: the more our economy grows, the more we’ll inevitably consume.Those who wrote it are aware of the multiple crises we face. But, having laid out the depth and breadth of our predicaments, they propose to do almost nothing about them. I can almost hear the internal dialogue: “Yes, let’s change the world! Hang on a minute, what about our commitment to slashing regulations? What about maximising economic growth? What would the Conservatives’ major funders have to say about it? Oh all right, let’s wave our hands around instead.” George Monbiot

10/12/17 - Seven charts that explain the plastic pollution problem Marine life is facing "irreparable damage" from the millions of tonnes of plastic waste which ends up in the oceans each year, the United Nations has warned."This is a planetary crisis... we are ruining the ecosystem of the ocean," UN oceans chief Lisa Svensson told the BBC this week.  But how does this happen, where is most at risk and what damage does this plastic actually do?

Sources of Ocean Plastic

24/11/17 - Most Ocean Plastic Pollution Carried by 10 Rivers The equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic waste is dumped into the world’s oceans every minute, equal to 8 million tons a year. New research suggests that 90 percent of that waste gets into the oceans through 10 major river systems. “It seems that larger rivers preferentially transport plastic and these are rivers with a large population. You could reduce river plastic loads tremendously by focusing on these 10 rivers,” lead researcher Christian Schmidt of Germany’s Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research, told VOA. Two of the rivers are in Africa - the Nile and the Niger – while the remaining eight are in Asia – the Ganges, Indus, Yellow, Yangtze, Haihe, Pearl, Mekong and Amur.

There is no 'away' - what are you washing down the drain?

13/01/18 - Scotland to ban plastic cotton buds from being made Plastic cotton buds are among the most common pieces of litter found discarded on beaches. “Despite various campaigns, people are continuing to flush litter down their toilets. This has to stop."

Beat the MicrobeadBeat the Microbead - International campaign against microbeads in toiletries and cosmetics - Product lists and phone app download which allows shoppers to scan a product’s barcode to check whether it contains plastic microbeads, developed in partnership with the Plastic Soup Foundation - the driving force behind what has become a global movement.

08/06/15 - Britain's major retailers vow to end microbead use Almost all of Britain's major retailers have pledged to phase out harmful microbeads from their own-brand cosmetic and beauty products, marking a major victory for environmentalists.

18/12/14 -  Billions of plastic fibres now polluting each kilometre of deep seas A new study reveals that microscopic plastic fibres are polluting sediment in deep seas all around the world. Marine plastic debris is a global problem, affecting wildlife, tourism and shipping. And yet the scientists in the study point out that monitoring over the past decades has not seen its concentration increase at the sea surface or along shorelines, despite experts knowing that more plastic is being created. However, the current study indicates this may be because microplastics have sunk to the ocean floor, with the number of fibres recorded in the deep seas up to four times greater than in shallow and coastal waters. Full report published in Royal Society Open Science

"A range of shallow water organisms are known to ingest microplastics, and the extent of their harmful effects will likely be influenced by their relative abundance. The discovery of substantial quantities in deep-sea sediments is of considerable relevance to our understanding of the potential of these particles to cause harm in the marine environment."

"Rayon is not a plastic, but we include it in our results, because it is a man-made semi-synthetic material and widely reported as present in the marine environment. It is used in cigarette filters, personal hygiene products and clothing, and is introduced to the marine environment through sewage, including from the washing of clothes. It has been reported in fish (57.8% of synthetic particles ingested) and in ice cores (54%), in similar proportions to those reported here."

07/12/14 - Medicines in the Environment: A Growing Threat to Wildlife and Drinking Water There is increasing evidence that human and veterinary medicines are damaging wildlife, a new report launched today by the environmental charity CHEM Trust shows. The report Pharmaceuticals in the Environment: A growing threat to our tap water and wildlife” highlights that medicines are polluting rivers and have harmed wild birds and fish. Other species too have been affected, and people are also worryingly exposed.

13/10/14 - Drugs flushed into the environment could be cause of wildlife decline Potent pharmaceuticals flushed into the environment via human and animal sewage could be a hidden cause of the global wildlife crisis, according to new research. The scientists warn that worldwide use of the drugs, which are designed to be biologically active at low concentrations, is rising rapidly but that too little is currently known about their effect on the natural world.

23/05/14 - Scottish residents search beaches for plastic ‘nurdles’ Not as cute as they sound, nurdles are the raw material for the trillion-dollar plastic industry. Each about the size of a lentil, these plastic pellets are melted together to form almost all plastic products. Accidental spills and careless handling at industrial facilities creates an easy route for these pellets to enter the marine environment, where they become embedded in estuarine and coastal habitats. Sadly, in the marine environment nurdles resemble floating fish eggs and tiny crustaceans, and are regularly mistaken for food by wildlife.

13/03/14 - Lugworms harmed by marine microplastic pollution Microplastic pollution impairs the heath of the marine worms that help maintain sediments for other creatures, new research suggests. This study shows that the energy reserves of lugworms living in sediment contaminated with microplastic particles were reduced by up to 50%.
21/11/13 - Ingested plastic transfers hazardous chemicals to fish and induces hepatic stress Fish exposed to a mixture of polyethylene with chemical pollutants sorbed from the marine environment bioaccumulate these chemical pollutants and suffer liver toxicity and pathology.

Good Scrub Guide18/09/13 - Fauna & Flora International launches the Good Scrub Guide A recent trend amongst cosmetic producers has been to add plastic microbeads into a wide range of personal care products, and the same applies to domestic cleaning products.  These microbeads, often less than a millimetre in diameter, are washing straight down the drain and invariably enter the marine environment because they are too small to be filtered out during wastewater treatment processes. And once they reach the sea, they are impossible to clean up.

2009 - Environmental implications of plastic debris in marine settings—entanglement, ingestion, smothering, hangers-on, hitch-hiking and alien invasions  Over the past five or six decades, contamination and pollution of the world’s enclosed seas, coastal waters and the wider open oceans by plastics and other synthetic, non-biodegradable materials (generally known as ‘marine debris’) has been an ever-increasing phenomenon.

The Producer Pays Principle

22/11/14 - Chewing gum manufacturers urged by councils to pay for clear-up of gum-spattered streets The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents almost 400 councils in England and Wales, is calling for gum giants to pay part of the £60 million annual removal cost. That figure would enable councils to fill in over a million potholes. The LGA wants a ‘producer pays' principle to apply, which means manufacturers would contribute to the cost of ensuring proper disposal. The LGA points out that the average piece of gum costs about 3p to buy - but 50 times that to clean up (£1.50). Most chewing gum never biodegrades and once it is trodden into the pavement this requires specialised equipment to remove. Gum manufacturers should also be switching to biodegradable and easier-to-remove chewing gum, it says.

Illegal Dumping

09/11/14 - BBC RADIO: File on 4 : Dirty Secrets (38 mins) The UK generates nearly 300 million tonnes of waste every year. That's rich pickings for criminals who illegally dump what we don't want, damaging the environment and threatening our health. The black market in rubbish is said to be worth a billion pounds. With such huge sums at stake there's concern that organised crime is increasing its grip on the sector. Allan Urry examines the efforts of Britain's Environment Agencies to try to hold the line. But it's tough going at a time when cuts have led to a reduction in staffing.


"We've made this movie Trashed  because there are so many people who feel strongly the urgent need for the problem of 'waste' and 'sustainability' to be addressed. There is an equally urgent need for the most imaginative and productive solutions to this troublesome subject to be understood and shared by as many communities as possible throughout the world." Jeremy Irons 

11/12/12 - Jeremy Irons talks trash for his new environmental documentary  Oscar-winning actor explains why he travelled around the world to highlight the environmental problems caused by our waste.

20/02/13 - RADIO: BBC Costing the Earth - The Dash for Ash  (30 mins) By 2020 the UK must significantly reduce its landfill habit. A recent government report warned that we would run out of landfill space by 2018 and a European Directive means we must reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill from 48% to 35% or face big fines. Next year landfill tax will hit £80 per tonne. Unsurprisingly there has been a huge rise in planning applications for incinerators. 90 are proposed to add to the 30 currently in operation. Waste is big business. Environmental campaigners argue that even if the health risks can be addressed this solution only creates more carbon dioxide emissions when what we really need is more recycling and less initial waste. In his film 'Trashed' actor Jeremy Irons looks at how our waste affects our health and that of the planet. Clip: Jeremy Irons "We cannot afford to destroy resources"

Landfill Harmonic Orchestra

This Landfill Harmonic  story is about how instruments made from recycled trash in Cateura, Paraguay bring hope to children whose future is otherwise spiritless.

No Impact Man

Colin Beavan was a writer living in Manhattan who had the usual concerns over the future of the environment until he realized he wasn't doing much about it. Beavan decided that it was time he and his family did something to deal with the practical issues of global warming and environmental sustainability, so he set out on a grand experiment -- to see if he, his wife, Michelle Conlin, their young daughter, and their dog could live for a year in New York City without leaving any sort of carbon footprint. Michelle, a writer for Business Week with a taste for fashion, was a hard sell for the notion of spending a year without electricity, takeout, toilet paper, or motorized transportation, but in time she agreed and found that their new life was a life-changing experience. Review


TRAIL Recycled Art in Landscape  is a voluntary organisation made up of environmentally aware artists and organisations that have exhibited in the Teignmouth area, in South Devon, each summer since 2005. For inspiration, see Bishopsteignton Outdoor Art Group whose members have created many large public sculptures using rubbish found locally.

The Secret Life of Rubbish

TV: BBC The Secret Life of Rubbish With tales from old binmen and film archive that has never been broadcast before, this two-part series offers an original view of the history of modern Britain - from the back end where the rubbish comes out. Review

Episode 1 - Deals with the decades immediately after the Second World War. As the programme sifts through the rubbish of the mid-20th century, we discover how the Britain of Make Do and Mend became a consumer society. Review

  • 90-year-old Ernie Sharp started on the bins when he was demobbed from the army in 1947, and household rubbish in those days was mostly ash raked out of the fire-grate. That's why men like Ernie were called 'dust'men.
  • But the rubbish soon changed. The Clean Air Act got rid of coal fires so there was less ash. Then supermarkets arrived, with displays of packaged goods. And all that packaging went in the bin.
  • In the 1960s consumerism emerged. Shopping for new things became a national enthusiasm. It gave people the sense that their lives were improving and kept the economy going. And as the binmen recall, the waste stream became a flood.

Episode 2 - Deals with the 1970s and 1980s, when two big ideas emerged in the waste management industry. This is the story of a society hooked on wastefulness - and of the people who clear up the mess.

  • The first was privatisation of public services. We meet Ian Ross, who made millions by taking over the refuse collection contract from the council that had once employed him as a binman. 'It was scary', Ian Ross admits, 'but you have one chance don't you, and you've got to take it.'
  • The other idea that emerged was environmentalism. Ron England goes back to the supermarket car park in Barnsley, South Yorkshire where he set up the world's first bottle bank. 'Everyone said I was a crank', recalls Ron.
  • But the waste stream continued to expand. This was great news for the Earls of Aylesford. The present Earl shows how his palace was saved with money earned from the enormous landfill in the grounds.