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Can gory Britannia satisfy Game of Throne fans?

Britannia

The first episode of Britannia is more confusing than a technical lecture on Bitcoin delivered in Mandarin by someone with a partial grasp of both subject and language.

Characters are introduced at a rate that makes speed-dating look like a form of courtship, storylines are scattered as if seeds to the wind, and the overuse of sweeping drone shots of fields and gorges left me reaching for a travel sickness pill.

All of this while indistinguishable tattooed blokes with long hair go at each other hammer-and-tongs in a blood bath overflowing with gore.

At this early stage it didn’t feel so much like an epic fantasy to compete with Game of Thrones, more an ancient version of Rugby Special.

We’re in Britain, AD43.

A Roman army of 20,000 troops led by General Aulus Plautius (who looks like Ed Balls but is actually David Morrissey) has invaded our Scepter’d Isle to do what Caesar couldn’t; that is, to tame, tax, and take control.

Image copyright Sky Atlantic
Image caption David Morrisey as the ruthless Roman general, Aulus Plautius

This time around the competition doesn’t appear to be up to much.

The two main tribes are too busy fighting each other to care about foreign invaders, while the Druids are preoccupied with inhaling vast quantities of weed and just being plain weird.

There is also an outcast (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) who howls at the moon and runs about, but what could one dishevelled loony do against the might of Rome (the top brass of which have been ordered to speak like Russell Crowe in Gladiator)?

Not a lot you’d think.

Image copyright Sky Atlantic
Image caption Nikolaj Lie Kaas as Divis, once a Druid, who has fallen out of favour

But then as the writer Jim Thompson once said about the art of telling tales, ‘there is really only one story, and that is nothing is what it seems.’ And so it is with Britannia, a nine-part series that appears to be an incomprehensible mess at first, but turns into a reasonably compelling mythical tale liberally laced with violence, humour and otherworldliness.

It is in the strange rites and rituals to be found in the edgelands of rural Britain that Jez Butterworth, one of the three-man writing team behind Britannia, specialises. There is nobody better at capturing the sacred and profane nature of our age-old cults and cultures. Anyone who has seen his play The Ferryman currently running in the West End, or before it Jerusalem with Mark Rylance as Jonny ‘Rooster’ Byron, will know that.

Image copyright Sky Atlantic
Image caption Mackenzie Crook, almost unrecognisable, as the chief Druid, Veran, who speaks for the gods

Mackenzie Crook was in Jerusalem with Rylance, playing a local lad under Byron’s charismatic spell. In Britannia, Crook has been upgraded to the main man – a wizardy sort called Veran who has terrible skin and a wicked stare. He is the leader of the Druids, and as such, has a direct line to the gods, who are unseen but ultimately control everything. A bit like bankers, I suppose.

It is to the gods everyone must answer, even the cold and calculating Aulus, whose Machiavellian tactics are to divide and rule. It is a job made much easier for him by the leaders of the two tribes who are constantly, and literally, at each other’s throats.

Image copyright Sky Atlantic
Image caption Zoë Wanamaker as Antedia, the fierce Queen of the Regni

The foul-mouthed Queen Antedia (Zoë Wanamaker in a role too trivial for such a talented actor) of the Regni wants vengeance for her son’s private parts, which were whipped off the unsuspecting dope by the Cantii’s flame-haired maverick, Kerra (Kelly Reilly). She couldn’t care less, as long as she can wear green and continue to flirt with her hunky Gaul friend (Stanley Weber).

Image copyright Sky Atlantic
Image caption Kerra (Kelly Reilly), the headstrong warrior and daughter of King Pellenor

The acting, directing, scripting are all fine, sometimes they are very good, but the show has yet to really take off, although the potential is there.

Obviously the whole thing is silly.

It is not a history programme, it’s a fantasy drama with all the swords, sorcery and stone circles you could hope for.

If you like that sort of thing you’ll probably like Britannia, if you don’t you won’t.

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Teen film dream comes true for friends

TWO best friends originally from Bradford have turned their teenage dream into a reality after a film about their lives is set to be released.

Scott Elliott and Sid Sadowskyj, both 32, wrote a ‘dreamcatcher’ list when they were 16 featuring what they wanted to do when they were older.

Now, their film, Scott and Sid, will be premiered in London on March 6. A premiere at an unconfirmed location in Bradford will follow later that month.

The 15 certificate movie, which has cost £1.7 million, follows schoolboys Scott, played by Richard Mason and Sid, by Tom Blyth, who are isolated, underachieving and a little lost when Scott transfers to Sid’s school as a teen.

Sid is the withdrawn son of an alcoholic mother and absent father, while Scott is an unloved foster child who’s been expelled from a number of schools.

Their friendship forms and they decided to write a list of goals and begin pursuing each one in turn to create a better life.

Meanwhile, the real-life friends featured in the Telegraph & Argus in 2002 when they set up their business, The Production Company, when sixth form students at Beckfoot School were encouraged to set up their own company.

Mr Elliott and Mr Sadowskyj’s 2018 interest, the movie, which they have written, produced and directed, was filmed in a number of locations including Leeds, York, London and in a house in Nab Wood, Shipley.

It has taken them the last four years to make and distribute and it is set to be advertised nationally on billboards and in movie magazines.

Mr Elliott said: “It is all about what makes you happy. What can you do to achieve this?

“We have lived by this dreams list over the last 16 years.

“The film is raw, gritty and about real life. The film is about friendship, the ups and down.

“This dreamcatcher list has broken us and brought us closer together.

“This is our first feature film. Having wanted to make a film since we were teenagers, the fact that we are on the brink of releasing a story based on our lives is incredible.

“To film in the region we grew up in was an honour.

“We have known each other since we were 16; I lived in Baildon and Sid lived in Shipley then.

“It has seen us learning on the job. We now want to do our own films.”

Their story is also set to be released as a novel.

The pair also plan to give talks in young offenders institutions and schools across the country and hope to visit sites in the Bradford district.

‘I’m sorry’ – but how do you tell if an apology is fake or genuine?

Logan PaulImage copyright Reuters
Image caption YouTube star Logan Paul is one of many high profile figures to have made a public apology in recent months

Sorry seems to be the hardest word. So sang Elton John on one of his biggest 1970s hits – but not every public figure seems to find it so tough to utter that powerful five-letter word.

In recent months a broad spectrum of public figures, from politicians, to Hollywood actors and YouTube stars have all publicly expressed remorse.

In the latest example, the new Conservative vice-chairman for youth, Ben Bradley, has been forced to apologise twice over previous remarks – the latest of which appear to back police brutality, according to the Times.

But with so much remorse on the airwaves, just how can we differentiate a forced apology from a heartfelt expression of remorse?

Make it personal

In its purest form, saying sorry should be an “act of contrition, a realisation that something you have said or done has hurt someone and you want to make amends”, says psychologist Geraldine Joaquim.

Made early, a well-crafted apology can be hugely beneficial and can “diffuse the situation and takes the wind out of an accuser’s sails”, she says.

A need to say sorry can arise in someone’s public life and equally at home with their family and friends but, whatever the environment, how well it is received depends on how personalised it feels.

Experts say the formula for an affective apology can be summed up with the acronym CAR:

  • show concern
  • demonstrate action
  • offer reassurance

“People want the response to be personal to them, to feel that they’re being listened to and taken seriously,” says Martin Stone, of PR agency Tank.

He says that, in the professional sphere, the phrase “formal apology” is often used, but, in reality, the opposite is what is required.

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Media captionTheresa May: “I apologise” for NHS difficulties

From businesses, governments and organisations, a scripted response will fail to resonate as it will not covey empathy and compassion.

“This is a problem Theresa May has often found but it’s interesting to see that her recent apology for the NHS crisis had been notably humanised,” Stone says.

“It is vital that any business or individual making an apology understands the focus – is it sorry for the way it’s acted or is it sorry that the complainant feels the way they do?”

How to tell a genuine apology from a fake one

  • Spontaneity – watch out for the speed of response, the quicker the apology comes, the better indication that the person making it has felt an immediate sense of guilt
  • Body language – if genuine, the person making the apology will be looking for listening clues to see if they are being understood, such as eye contact and facial expressions
  • Vulnerability – performed apologies always have a sense of being “acted out”, and are often accompanied by too many theatrical gestures. If the person is genuine they will provide “humbling signals”‘, such as a lowered head, to indicate remorse and vulnerability
  • Denial gestures – the biggest clues of insincerity can come after the gesture itself, with non-verbal signals that silently reject the words used; this can include looking to the floor and smirking.

Are the best apologies the informal ones?

Perhaps the rise in apologies over recent years can be linked to the rise of social media, which has helped facilitate a “breakdown in formality”, says Stone.

Platforms such as Twitter, and to a lesser extent Facebook, offer the opportunity for immediate engagement and impact.

If pitched exactly right, a witty and well-judged apology can even “go viral” and end up as a positive for a company that has done wrong but shows it can “own” its mistake and put it right.

And while this can present fantastic marketing opportunities for companies who strike the right tone between “witty and irreverent responses to general comments”, it is important to know when to tone it down for more sensitive situations, Stone says.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Toby Young said he regrets his “politically incorrect” comments

Earlier this month, Virgin Trains were left red-faced when an attempted tongue-in-cheek apology to a passenger was branded sexist.

If the wrong move is made, the high level of audience engagement leaves huge potential for reputational damage – which will then only be solved by a further apology that appeases users but draws more attention to the problem.

The nature of the internet also means unguarded comments live on for ever – as can controversy years down the line, as Toby Young recently found.

The journalist “unreservedly apologised” for past tweets of a sexual and misogynistic nature that he said were “ill-judged or just plain wrong”.

In this climate, social media management has become a huge business. Job-hunting platform LinkedIn found that between 2010 and 2013, the number of such roles listed rose tenfold.

Be quick, be clear

Whether online or in person, the timing and choice of language in an apology are decisive factors.

“Firstly, it is important to show that show you understand and sympathise,” says Stone.

“Theresa May did this well in her NHS apology by starting sentences with ‘I know it’s difficult’ and ‘I know it’s frustrating’. Even if you’re a massive corporate giant, don’t hide from emotion and don’t ignore feelings.”

Linguistically it is also important to avoid dehumanising statements or promises that can’t be kept.

“Don’t say that you’ll ensure that this will not happen again if you’re not confident it won’t. It could come back to bite you,” Stone explains.

Equally, the use of “but” can hugely change the tone of an apology.

As Stone points out: “I’m sorry but…’ sounds like you are making excuses and aren’t actually taking any form of responsibility.

“It may be three letters but it can instantly make an apology seem hollow.”

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Three case studies – examined by body language expert Judi James

Tony Blair apologises over Iraq

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Media captionTony Blair expresses sorrow, regret and apology for the 2003 Iraq invasion

“This is a masterclass in deflection. He begins with an over-congruent non-verbal apology bordering on the tearful. His voice breaks, he seems to blink back tears and he falters as though about to break down.

“It was a delayed apology too, so not remotely spontaneous. His emotional turn-around is too rapid to suggest genuine feelings of remorse. He flips like a switch, saying there are things he won’t apologise for, and his body language flips with it, becoming splayed and defiant, with an accelerated blink-rate suggesting anger.”

Adele apologises for show cancellation

“This is a bit like the popstar version of a sick call to work – appearing make-up free to prove her ill health. She’s only talking to a camera but she makes it sound personal.

“Her ‘really really’ sorry could sound fake but not when you factor in her body language. She emphasises her words with a baton hand and then rubs her arm as though sharing the pain of her fans. It’s as genuine and sincere as you’d get from a filmed message, but then sincerity is very much Adele’s style.”

Theresa May apologises to MPs who lost seats in the election

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Media captionTheresa May said she would “reflect on what we need to do in the future to take the party forward”

“Her eye contact and eye expression look defiant but the mouth skew hints that she really does feel sorry for what happened. So, in a way, this is a reverse in terms of sincerity.

“She has been told to perform a confident, political, deflected apology but is in fact leaking out suppressed, genuine remorse via her body language.”

Emily Maitlis fears stalker will never stop

BBC News presenter Emily Maitlis
Image caption BBC News presenter Emily Maitlis met Edward Vines when they were students at Cambridge University

TV presenter Emily Maitlis says she fears her stalker will never stop harassing her.

Two days after a former friend was jailed for breaching a restraining order, the Newsnight presenter compared living with two decades of harassment to having a chronic illness.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live’s Emma Barnett Show, she said it had had a devastating impact on her family.

“You turn into this person who shouts at your kids for the wrong thing.”

She also described her frustrations with the legal system and called for a new approach to treating stalkers.

On Tuesday, Edward Vines was jailed for 45 months for breaching a restraining order, having first been convicted of harassing Maitlis in 2002.

‘Jumpy’ and ‘stressful’

Maitlis said in the radio interview, to be broadcast on the Emma Barnett Show from 10:00 GMT, that the thought of her stalker was ever-present.

“It just makes you jumpy – and that’s stressful and it’s tiring and it’s time-consuming.

“Your head is somewhere else and you’re having to think about things that are just ludicrous, like ‘how do you get in and out of your front door’ and ‘how they are getting back from school?’

“It’s not that you think everyone is out to kill you. You recognise it as a paranoia. But it doesn’t make it any easier.

“This has literally been going on for 20 years. It feels like sort of a chronic illness.

“It’s not that I ever believe it will stop or he will stop, or the system will manage to prevent it properly.”

Image copyright Thames Valley Police
Image caption Edward Vines was issued with an indefinite restraining order in 2009

The journalist first met Vines, from Oxford, when they were students at Cambridge University.

He was issued with an indefinite restraining order in 2009, which he was convicted of twice breaching last year.

‘He is unwell’

Maitlis said: “Whatever treatment he’s had isn’t working as a cure and he is obviously also a victim in this.

“He is unwell and has wasted half his life. Stalking is a weirdo glamorised term for what is essentially mental ill-health and so somewhere along the lines we have to change the mechanism.”

She added: “It’s weird for the kids to have to see this stuff. They know as much as they want, they can read and they are online. My job is just to keep things really normal at home.

“I remember the first time the police came round and they pulled my husband aside and said ‘You’re the one we’re worried about here’.

“Apparently there is a very natural course of behaviour, that the husband just goes out and decks the guy.

“Then of course you’re in the worst possible position because your own husband is serving time instead of the perpetrator.”

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Vines met the Newsnight presenter when they were at Cambridge University

The government has apologised to Maitlis after her stalker was able to write to her from prison.

Vines wrote to her while in HMP Bullingdon and again while living in a bail hostel.

Maitlis described this as “bizarre beyond belief”, adding: “It was something that should never have got through, but it is extraordinary to think that a stalker behind bars for corresponding can then carry on corresponding.”

She said that on an individual basis, authorities and police had been “really caring and helpful” but there was a lack of co-ordination when dealing with victims.

“You give a statement and you give an impact statement; you’ve got a prosecution and you’ve got a custodial sentence, and it’s been meted out – and then 12 months later it happens all over again.

“By that time it’s a different policeman or a different investigator or people have changed jobs and somebody turns up at your house and says ‘Right so what’s all this about?’ or ‘Where did it all begin?’, and for somebody who’s been through this to have to relive that, it’s punishing and it’s humiliating.”

The full interview with Emily Maitlis will be on the Emma Barnett Show on BBC 5 live from 10:00 BST on Thursday 18th January.

Are the days of loyalty cards numbered after Tesco’s change?

Tesco storeImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tesco says the Clubcard change makes it “simpler” for customers

As soon as Tesco said it was cutting some of its Clubcard rewards, customers started venting their anger.

“Kick people while they’re down,” said one. Another called it a “blow” after saving up the vouchers for two years.

The supermarket has now backtracked and delayed the cut until the summer.

But experts believe the move is part of a wider trend, and said the days of shoppers using plastic loyalty cards and collecting supermarket reward vouchers are numbered.

“This concept of swiping a card at the till is dated. It’s not what attracts us to a supermarket,” says retail analyst Natalie Berg of Planet Retail.

It is no coincidence that Aldi and Lidl, the UK‘s two fastest-growing supermarket chains, do not have loyalty cards.

“Shoppers are no longer monogamous. The idea of being loyal to a particular supermarket is a thing of the past,” she says.

With the weekly, out-of-town shop in decline, and supermarkets facing intense pressure on prices and online deliveries, it is no surprise that loyalty cards are less of a priority, Ms Berg says.

Image copyright Getty Images

However, the backlash over Tesco’s move showed shoppers still cared about loyalty rewards.

“It’s the final stages of loyalty cards, but not of loyalty schemes,” says Martin Lewis, founder of the Money Saving Expert website, who led the campaign against Tesco’s sudden Clubcard changes.

“The idea that it’s a piece of plastic, and that you get points back and vouchers, is going to go.”

He knows of shoppers that have keyrings containing more than 40 loyalty cards. Those will increasingly become a thing of the past as they are replaced with technology that still offers discounts, Mr Lewis says.

There is at least one smartphone app, Stocard, that lets users upload all their loyalty cards into one place.

And the salad chain, Vital Ingredient, dropped its customer card in favour of an app that enables payments and gives reward points.

‘Disenfranchised’

As our shopping habits change, so too do our expectations for loyalty schemes.

UK shoppers have about three loyalty cards on average, but only use two of them, according to retail analysts TCC Global.

And there are signs that customers are becoming “disenfranchised” with the rewards on offer, says TCC’s Bryan Roberts.

Just 5% of shoppers would stop going to a store if it dropped its loyalty card, he adds.

What customers really want is the ability to turn rewards into family days out or Pizza Express meals – which might explain why Tesco’s move caused an uproar.

Tesco’s Clubcard, which was introduced in 1995, enables shoppers to earn points for money spent with the supermarket. The vouchers they generate can be used for restaurant meals or entry to attractions such as London Zoo, for example.

Some could be used for four times their face value. Tesco is now cutting most to three times their value – but has postponed the change until 10 June.

Alessandra Bellini, Tesco’s chief customer officer, said: “Customers have told us they want Clubcard to be simpler, and they’ve asked us to make it easier to get the most value from the points they collect.”

Image copyright Getty Images

The end of the loyalty card has been predicted many times before, but what is different this time is that smartphone apps are an obvious replacement for physical cards, experts say.

But retailers and shoppers will not drop the idea of loyalty rewards anytime soon, argues Annich McIntosh, editor of Loyalty magazine.

The Co-op re-introduced its membership card in 2016 – and even though it cost £35m in the first half of last year, Co-op bosses think it is worth the expense.

Planet Retail’s Natalie Berg says Amazon’s Prime membership has become “an all-encompassing beast of a loyalty scheme” that gives access to books, music, TV, photo storage and next-day delivery.

“Store cards might go because a bit of plastic in your wallet isn’t necessary,” says Ms McIntosh. “But loyalty programmes aren’t on their way out – they matter too much to people.”

WINTER DRIVING: 5 tips to drive more safely on icy roads

When official advice is to avoid non-essential driving because of winter conditions then, in an ideal world, you should heed it and stay put.

But that can be easier said than done – how often do you ever make a journey you don’t think of as essential?

And, if you really must venture out in icy conditions, there are things you can do to improve your chances of reaching your destination in one piece. Here are some tips from the Institute of Advanced Motoring (IAM).

1. Keep your car in good shape

Grit is great for keeping roads clear of snow and ice (when it works) but it’s not good for your car. The salt included in grit can corrode your car if you have any exposed scratches. It can also make your headlamps dirty – just think of all the muck you have to wash off your windscreen after a motorway journey at this time of yearso be sure to wipe them down regularly or you’ll lose visibility. And your tyre condition is essential at this time of year – you need at least 2mm and ideally 3mm tread for winter conditions (not the 1.6mm required by law).

2. Be prepared

You should always keep some essentials in your car at this time of year – an ice scraper, de-icer, shovel and torch – not to mention something to eat and a flask of hot drink in case you get stuck in your car for a long time.

3. Leave extra stopping distance

At least triple your stopping distance and approach every junction expecting to stop well before the stop or give way line (it can take up to ten times as long to stop according to Highway Code advice). Every steering, acceleration or braking input should be as smooth and gentle as possible and select 2nd gear when you pull away in icy conditions (less torque will help prevent wheel spin).

4. Don’t overtake gritters

It’s usually fair to assume that the road in front of a gritter won’t have been gritted in a while. So it makes sense to stay behind them. It’s not rocket science.

5. Beware of other drivers

Probably the biggest risk at this time of year comes from other motorists. Even if you’re prepared for the conditions, you can’t assume they will be. So make extra allowances and expect erratic behaviour from everyone else on the road. Let’s face it, if you’re used to driving in Bradford, this should already be second nature!

Fire engine stuck for two hours on icy road in Bradford

A FIRE engine was unable to attend a callout on Tuesday night after getting stuck on an icy road in Bradford for over two hours.

Firefighters from Fairweather Green were attending a potential house fire in Lynfield Drive, but got stuck in compacted snow and ice in Heights Lane at around 7.45pm.

The callout was to a smoking electrical socket.

Fortunately Shipley firefighters were deployed to the same call and managed to get to the address from a different route.

A spokesman for the fire service said: “The lane is quite steep and there had been no salt spread on it at all. We got stuck and couldn’t move. We ended up having to dig the engine out and spread salt so we could turn round and get back and it meant the engine was not in use for that time.

“Fortunately the callout wasn’t serious and Shipley was able to deal with it. It would have been different if it had been a fire with only one appliance getting there to deal with it.

“We contacted the council straight away and said they would send a gritter straight out to spread salt along the road which we understand they did.”

A spokesman from Shipley fire station said: “We travelled all the way to Heaton and back and didn’t see a single gritter. The roads were treacherous in places. It’s difficult enough stopping a 12 tonne vehicle at the best of times, but when the roads are so bad with snow and ice it makes it worse.”

A Bradford Council spokesperson said Heights Lane was gritted at 5am and at lunchtime on Tuesday, and again in the evening when they were called by the fire service.

A spokesman for Bingley fire station who had a callout to Sladen Bridge, Haworth, at 7.07pm to deal with a sparking street light which had been knocked down by a car said the roads were difficult around there.

“We only saw one gritter while we were out,” he said.

Fire engine stuck for two hours on ungritted road in Bradford

A FIRE engine was unable to attend a callout tonight after getting stuck on an ungritted road in Bradford for over two hours.

Firefighters from Fairweather Green were attending a potential house fire in Lynfield Drive, but got stuck in compacted snow and ice in Heights Lane at around 7.45pm.

The callout was to a smoking electrical socket.

Fortunately Shipley firefighters were deployed to the same call and managed to get to the address from a different route.

A spokesman for the fire service said: “The lane is quite steep and there had been no salt spread on it at all. We got stuck and couldn’t move. We ended up having to dig the engine out and spread salt so we could turn round and get back and it meant the engine was not in use for that time.

“Fortunately the callout wasn’t serious and Shipley was able to deal with it. It would have been different if it had been a fire with only one appliance getting there to deal with it.

“We contacted the council straight away and said they would send a gritter straight out to spread salt along the road which we understand they did.”

A spokesman from Shipley fire station said: “We travelled all the way to Heaton and back and didn’t see a single gritter. The roads were treacherous in places. It’s difficult enough stopping a 12 tonne vehicle at the best of times, but when the roads are so bad with snow and ice it makes it worse.”

A spokesman for Bingley fire station who had a callout to Sladen Bridge, Haworth, at 7.07pm to deal with a sparking street light which had been knocked down by a car said the roads were difficult around there.

“We only saw one gritter while we were out,” he said.

Plastic recycling: Your questions answered

Image copyright Getty Images

Supermarket chain Iceland has joined the battle against plastic waste, saying it will eliminate or drastically reduce plastic packaging of all its own-label products by the end of 2023.

It comes after recent outcries over packaging following Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet programme, which showed vivid images of plastic pollution.

But as plastic continues to dominate our shopping aisles for now, we asked you to send in any questions you had about plastic recycling.

Why are some plastics able to be recycled while others are not? – Joseph

There are more than 50 different types of plastics, making it more difficult to sort and reprocess than other materials.

Nearly all types of plastics can be recycled, but the extent to which they are depends on factors such as whether the technology is available in the area you live.

Many recycling collections in the UK have focused on key packaging types, for example plastic bottles, which are heavier than most other plastics and therefore relatively easy to sort.

Often packaging can consist of more than one polymer type, which makes it more difficult to recycle.

Problematic plastics include black plastic food trays, which are used by many supermarkets.

They are generally not collected as sorting machines are not able to detect them – the carbon black makes them invisible.

If they are collected, they are likely to be rejected at the sorting plant although companies are looking at new technology to get around this problem.

Some companies now use yoghurt pots made out of polyethylene terephthalate – the same material that is used for plastic bottles, making them easily recyclable.

But other yoghurt pots are made from polystyrene, which is not usually accepted in recycling schemes.

Margarine tubs are often made from a wide range of polymers, which require technology not readily available in the UK – meaning it is often shipped abroad for recycling.

Some district and borough councils collect plastic bags and film with their recycling, but they are not easy to sort mechanically meaning they are very costly to process.

Why can plastic trays be recycled in, say, Sheffield or Isle of Wight, but not in my home city of Manchester? – Paul Mostyn

Many local authorities now allow residents to put plastic trays in their kerbside collection but recycling is managed locally, rather than by central government.

What each council decides to recycle depends on the resources available.

In Greater Manchester, the only plastic recycled is plastic bottles because they don’t have the technology available to sort between different types.

A bottle and a food tray, for example, can’t be recycled together as they melt at different temperatures.

Recycle for Greater Manchester, part of England‘s largest Waste Disposal Authority, says it focuses on plastic bottles as they are in demand by manufacturers that make new products, whereas there is low demand for plastics like yoghurt pots, margarine tubs and plastic trays.

However, other areas, such as Surrey, are happy to take those items for recycling.

According to the UK Household Plastics Collection Survey 2017, by Recoup – a UK organisation which recycles plastics, 76% of (298) local authorities in the UK collect plastic pots, tubs and trays.

Only five local authorities out of 391 do not offer a collection service for plastic bottles, while 19% (75) collect plastic film and 9% (34) collect non-packaging plastics.

To find out what you can recycle where you live, click here.

Image copyright Getty Images

Can ALL of the plastic milk bottle be recycled – including the (harder) plastic screw cap? – L. Hudson

Plastic bottles are the most commonly collected packaging type because they are easy to sort and can easily be recycled in the UK, where a far higher amount is used than in most countries because it is used as a milk container.

Until recently, people were advised to remove lids from their plastic bottles because they were a different colour and could contaminate the bottle stream.

However, many processors are now able to separate the lids from the bottles themselves.

Check your local area.

What about empty toothpaste tubes? Millions of those will be thrown away every year, but am I correct in thinking they cannot be recycled? – Peter Hickman

Yes, squeezable toothpaste tubes are difficult to recycle and it is unusual for councils to collect them as part of their collections schemes.

This also applies to other squeezable tubes that contain products, like moisturising creams.

However, the pump action toothpaste tubes are made from a different type of plastic and are easier to recycle.

When recycled plastic has to be melted down and reformed to make it into new, doesn’t this produce gases? – Ben

Even when plastics can be recycled, some worry that doing so is even worse for the environment.

According to Professor Thomas Kinnaman of Bucknell University in the US, recycling plastic uses roughly double the energy, labour and machinery necessary to put it in landfill.

It could also become less efficient in the future, as modern incinerators produce less and less pollution.

And recycling has its own environmental costs, including more trucks on the road.

Recycling paper and glass, however, requires much less energy.

And governments are still encouraging recycling to reduce our need to extract ever more raw material from the environment.

Moreover, leaving plastics in landfills can allow greenhouses gases to be released as they begin to break down.

What can households do to reduce plastic waste? – Karen Lee

The environmental pressure group Greenpeace sets out seven ways for people to reduce the amount of plastic they throw away.

Their tips include: avoid packaged vegetables, carry a reusable cup and getting your milk delivered in glass bottles rather than buying plastics ones.

Other tips include using tupperware boxes instead of clingfilm to keep food fresh and avoiding coffee capsules which cannot be recycled.

Steven Seagal denies Bond girl assault

Rachel Grant at the Die Another Day Royal Premiere in London in 2002Image copyright Eon
Image caption Rachel Grant at the Die Another Day Royal Premiere in London in 2002

Actor and producer Steven Seagal has denied an allegation of sexual assault at a film rehearsal in Sofia 2002, made against him by Bond girl Rachel Grant.

Mr Seagal’s lawyers also deny another allegation by the actress that he attempted to indecently expose himself.

The British actress later lost her job on the film, Out For A Kill.

Ms Grant, speaking exclusively to the BBC, said: “I want to share what happened to me, so people will hear it and others might come forward.”

These claims follow other allegations made against the Hollywood actor, some of which he has denied.

Lawyers for Mr Seagal say that he unequivocally denies Ms Grant’s allegations in their entirety: “Our client denies having such contact with Ms Grant and further vehemently denies any alleged assault at all, in particular, the alleged assault occurring in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2002.”

At the weekend, CBS News reported that the Los Angeles Police Department was investigating a separate sexual assault claim against the actor.

The 65-year-old, who was given Russian citizenship by President Vladimir Putin in 2016, is best known for his action roles in the 1980s and 1990s, including the Under Siege films.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Actor Steven Seagal at the 2014 Chinese American Film Festival in California

Ms Grant, who played the character Peaceful in James Bond film Die Another Day in 2002, says she was emboldened by women sharing their stories of sexual harassment as part of the #MeToo campaign.

The British actress, who was 26 at the time, claims she was flown to Sofia to rehearse lines in September 2002 after auditioning for a role in Out For A Kill. She says she was excited to meet Mr Seagal, who had been a childhood hero.

She claims she met the actor in a hotel suite with the film’s director, but when left alone in the room with Mr Seagal, she alleges he asked her to take her top off several times, which she refused.

“I stood up to try to distract him. But he was able to tug down my top, which was strapless. My breasts were completely exposed and I was forced to cover myself,” she claims.

“He pushed me on to the bed with force. Then he said, ‘I suppose you want to see my private parts’ – though he used a different word.

“I was looking up and he started to pull down his zip,” she alleges.

Ms Grant then “burst into tears”, at which point Mr Seagal stopped and began to apologise, she says.

She says Mr Seagal told her that he liked to date actresses he worked with to improve the “on-screen chemistry”.

“It was horrible – I was upset, embarrassed and hurt.

“What actress should be brought to someone’s bedroom on the first meeting and then be told to take their top off?”

Image copyright Mikel Healey
Image caption Rachel Grant, 41, now works as an actress, producer and TV presenter

Ms Grant says she has been the victim of sexual harassment on other occasions but that she has refused to let the incidents affect her career.

“I lost a job and I cried a lot but I’m a positive person – I tried to take it with a pinch of salt,” she explains, acknowledging that not all victims of sexual assault are able to recover.

She wants to end the culture of questioning why many victims of sexual harassment only share their experiences years after the event.

“When it happens to you, you’re ashamed, you’re embarrassed, nobody needs to know, nobody. You hope it gets covered in dust and no one will ever know.

“I want people to know that it actually makes more sense for people to talk about it a long time after it happens – you get over it and then you can talk about it.”

She says she hopes campaigns like Time’s Up and #MeToo will help bring an end to sexual harassment in the industry.


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