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How Did We Get Hooked on Plastic?

Early inventors wanted to find a substance that could replace ivory as they were concerned they were hunting elephants into extinction. Now it’s something we can’t live without.

The story of how the search for a material to replace ivory changed our lives forever. In the 19th century a billiard ball company placed an advert in a newspaper offering $10,000 to anyone who could come up with a substitute for ivory. There was growing concern that companies were hunting elephants into extinction so they could use their ivory for billiard balls, buttons and umbrella handles. The story that follows takes us from explosive factories that often went up in smoke to the modern world we find ourselves in today. How did plastics go from being a saviour of the environment to a cause for concern? How did we get hooked on plastic?

Presenter: Helena Merriman
Producer: Phoebe Keane

Photo: A man checks used plastic bottles for recycling at a recycling station in Agartala
Credit: ARINDAM DEY/AFP/Getty Images

Available now

23 minutes


  • Thu 1 Feb 2018 00:06GMT
  • Thu 1 Feb 2018 03:06GMT
  • Thu 1 Feb 2018 04:06GMT
  • Thu 1 Feb 2018 07:06GMT
  • Thu 1 Feb 2018 08:06GMT
  • Thu 1 Feb 2018 15:06GMT
  • Thu 1 Feb 2018 18:06GMT
  • Thu 1 Feb 2018 23:06GMT
  • Mon 5 Feb 2018 04:06GMT
  • Mon 5 Feb 2018 06:06GMT
  • Mon 5 Feb 2018 07:06GMT

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