Plastic waste and environmental worries
- September 12, 2018
- Posted by: TESOL Direct
- Category: Sample Lessons
One issue of growing importance for British shoppers today is packaging and the importance of using recyclable materials, according to new research. For perhaps the first time, many members of the public put environmental worries around plastic waste above the price of goods when shopping. Many members of the public know that there are now vast areas of the oceans covered in floating plastic. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, for example, is the largest of five areas of floating plastic in the world’s oceans. It is located halfway between Hawaii and California. Another similar patch is found in the Atlantic.
The research, carried out by ThoughtWorks, found that 62% of the 2,000 people surveyed were concerned with the need to reduce plastic packaging and to use materials which were recyclable. They are concerned that the plastic in the oceans will kill animals and will gradually break down into smaller and smaller pieces and get into the food chain.
Food waste, and where food comes from, were also strong reasons to drive purchases; 48% and 36% of those surveyed saying these issues affected their decision-making on what to buy and where to buy it from, according to the research.
Kevin Flynn, director of retail strategy at ThoughtWorks, said the research showed the seeds of a consumer change which retailers and supermarkets would have to adapt to. He said if retailers did not listen to their consumers on issues such as reducing plastic packaging waste, the shoppers would simply go elsewhere.
“What is very clear from our research, and a little surprising, is how well people can see what’s coming next,” he said. “The days of pushing a trolley around a big warehouse, buying over-packaged goods and chasing value offers are numbered.”
He said, “Consumers have more and more choice about how to shop and are learning more and more about where their food comes from . The whole retail industry is acutely aware that it needs to be nimble and move quickly to respond to this changing environment.”
Price has traditionally been the most important factor for shoppers. But this new research comes after growing public awareness about the scale of plastic pollution in the oceans. If nothing is done to reduce the use of plastic, the amount of waste in the oceans will triple in the next decade.
According to the research, consumers are now asking more questions about where their food comes from, how it is produced and how it is packed. Around 37% of survey respondents said they will place much more importance on where the food they buy is grown, fished or reared. An additional 32% said they would seek assurance that food has been ethically sourced from a sustainable supply chain, while 18% of 18-24 year old young adults said they would not be eating meat in the future.
Adapted for classroom use from an article in the Guardian by Sandra Laville 10 September 2018
Suggested lesson plan for students at intermediate level.
A recording of the passage.
A printed version of the text.
Step 1: Write environmental issues on the board. Ask the students what problems this makes them think of. List them on the board without comment or explanation e.g.
global warming rising sea levels ozone layer air pollution
desertification floods and storms hotter summers plastic pollution
deforestation loss of biodiversity disposal of waste
Step 2: Ask the students what they know about each of these.
Step 3: Ask them to work in pairs and to place them in order according to importance. Feedback from pairs. (The order doesn’t matter but encourage discussion on how they view these issues.)
Step 4: Write the words on the board. Ask the students about the meaning.
recyclable ethically sourced
Step 5: Tell the students that you are going to play them a recording about environmental issues. Tell them to listen and then tell you what the main message is i.e. plastic pollution in the oceans.
Step 6: Listen again. What used to be the most important factor for customers when in a supermarket?
Step 7: Listen again. Tell the students to note down what these numbers refer to:
62% of the 2,000
48% and 36%
Listen again if necessary.
Step 8: Feedback from students on what the numbers refer to.
Step 9. Hand out the text. Tell the students to read it silently.
Step 10: Check their understanding of this language:
recyclable located over-packaged nimble
the seeds of a consumer change chasing value offers
ethically sourced from a sustainable supply chain
Step 11: Ask the students to tell you the advantages of plastics and the disadvantages. List them on the board. (e.g. Adv: easy to make; tough, can be recycled. Disadv: doesn’t easily decay; breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces; fish and animals eat it; gets into the food chain)
Step 12: Ask them to work in groups of 3 or 4: if you were in government, what changes would you recommend?
Step 13: Feedback from the groups.
Step 14: Ask them to write sentences of their own using these examples of language:
- smaller and smaller
- faster and faster
- higher and higher
- more and more worried
- more and more excited
- less and less interesting
- fewer and fewer
Step 15: Elicit example sentences from the students. Write some examples on the board to examine both good examples and examples that need to be corrected. Note that less can only go with uncountable nouns and fewer can only go with countable nouns.
Step 16: Ask the students to prepare an eye-catching leaflet of no more than 50 words for Greenpeace about plastic waste.