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Episode 1

Every minute the equivalent of a truck full of plastic is emptied into the worlds oceans. In this episode Hugh and Anita look at where the problem is coming from and how to solve it.

Every minute of every day the equivalent of a garbage truck full of plastic is emptied into the world’s oceans. Thanks to other BBC series like Blue Planet and Drowning in Plastic, we’ve all seen the devastating effect this is having on our world’s wildlife.

In this new three-part series, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani explore where this gigantic problem is coming from, and what we can all do to try and solve it. They will be challenging big businesses to do more to reduce the plastic in their products, questioning the government about what they are doing to address recycling and plastic production. Plus challenging an entire street in Bristol to try and significantly reduce the amount of single-use plastic in their homes in four months to discover how easy or difficult it is to make these kind of changes.

Working with the street in Bristol, Anita quickly identifies where the greatest source of single use plastics are coming from. Over a third of all the plastic packaging in the country comes from our ten leading supermarket chains, more than 800,000 tonnes a year. When our street’s residents try and buy food without unnecessary packaging, they’re shocked to discover that both Sainsbury’s and Tesco seem to charge less for fruit and veg wrapped in plastic. Anita heads to Tesco’s HQ to ask why?

Meanwhile Hugh is on the trail of the ubiquitous plastic water bottle. With each bottle taking 450 years to decompose they are the most common litter on our beaches. So why do we buy eight million every year? Does the water taste better? Is it healthier? Or is it just more convenient? Hugh dons a disguise to try and find out. Launching a new brand of Tapineau (or bottled tap water) to an unsuspecting public, it turns out no one can tell the difference in taste. Further lab analysis reveals that bottled water is no better for us either. Hugh is astounded to discover that bottled water is about 500 times more expensive than tap. The equivalent of paying £2000 for a pint!

Forty-seven percent of people admit to arguing about what is and isn’t recyclable at home. Perhaps that’s why less than half of all the plastics we produce in this country actually end up in the correct bin. The confusion is laid bare when Hugh sets up a street side recycling game. It quickly becomes clear that no one really knows which bin to use, and with different councils having different rules across the country, it’s a wonder any of it makes it to the right place at all.

Hugh goes on the trail of the plastic that does get recycled and discovers that since China stopped accepting rubbish from around the world, Malaysia has become one of the biggest importers of British waste plastics.

He travels to Malaysia to try and find out what is happening to it all, and what he sees shocks him to the core. Great piles of unsorted British plastics have been left to rot on illegal dumpsites with much of it sat near split UK council recycling bags. When Hugh speaks to local residents, they tell of illegal plastic fires being lit to help get rid of it all, which emit clouds of noxious black smoke, which they blame for causing health problems for their young children. Hugh is determined to get to the bottom of what has obviously become a plastic recycling scandal.

6 months left to watch

59 minutes

Audio described

Last on

Thursday 00:35

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Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:06

    Gary Royant

    Electro Charisma

Credits

Role Contributor
Presenter Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Presenter Anita Rani
Director Tom Beard
Series Producer Jacky Sloane
Executive Producer Will Anderson

Broadcasts

  • Monday 21:00
  • Wednesday 23:35
  • Thursday 00:05
  • Thursday 00:35

Plastics Watch

Plastics Watch

Everything you need to know about plastics and how to get involved with Plastics Action.