January 4

How to Talk About Pollution in C1 Speaking

How do you talk about pollution with confidence in your Cambridge C1 exam? Let’s find out!


Hello, this is Kristian from Cambridge Advanced Speaking, I’m in good spirits today and ready to record this episode for you.

If you didn’t know, I run the website Get Ready For Success, where you can find the audio, the lesson notes, and even the video of this episode.

I create and share all these materials, because I want to help you speak better English and get a high mark in your C1 Speaking Exam.

Today I’m going to take you on a rather quick tour of the key language you need to speak about pollution. 

We’re going to look at 4 things.

  1. Key terminology
  2. Frequently used verbs
  3. Advanced collocations
  4. Idiomatic expressions

Sounds great, right? Let’s get cracking!


Key Terminology

Right, let’s get this started with some essential terminology.

Pollution: damage caused to water, air, soil etc. by harmful substances or waste.

New research found that industrial pollution goes high in the atmosphere and travels far.

Ecosystem: all the living things in an area and the way they affect each other and the environment.

Pollution can have disastrous effects on the local ecosystem. 

Ecological (adj.): relating to ecology or the environment.

The destruction of the rain forests is an ecological disaster.

Eco-friendly (adj.): describes things that protect and look after the environment, rather than damaging it.

The building has many features that make it more eco-friendly as well as reducing heating costs.

Waste: synonyms are rubbish (UK) garbage (US) trash (US) litter (UK).

A landfill: 1. The disposal of garbage, rubbish, etc. by burying it under soil or earth. 2. A place where rubbish is buried.

The environmental costs of landfill keep increasing.

The vast majority of waste is dumped on landfill sites.  

Biodegradable waste: waste that naturally decomposes. It is able to decay naturally and in a way that is not harmful:

Biodegradable packaging helps to limit the amount of harmful chemicals released into the atmosphere.

Non-biodegradable waste: something that cannot be decomposed or dissolved naturally. It may remain on this planet for many years. A notorious example is plastic that is used in everything-from cola bottles to pencil boxes.

If you want to learn more about this stuff, you can read the article What is Non-Biodegradable Waste? [Explained] .


5 Frequently Used Verbs

Next, let’s talk about 5 frequently used verbs.

To dump rubbish:

People dump rubbish in the sea, on the streets, in (illegal) landfills.

To segregate waste:

We should segregate waste (to separate) to facilitate recycling.

The 3 Rs:

Recycle rubbish

Reduce waste

Reuse plastics


10 Advanced Collocations

Now, let’s look at collocations with the following exam question in mind:

What can we do to tackle pollution?

The transport industry can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels (oil, coal, gas).

Farmers can bring down the use of pesticides (medicine for crops) to avoid the destruction of bees.

The government should crack down on illegal dumping (take strong action to stop people putting waste into a landfill / the sea / river without permission).

We should be careful to recycle rubbish and waste at home.

I strive not to use disposable plastic, such as coffee cups in Starbucks.

People should steer clear of illegal waste dumping = people should avoid illegal waste dumping.

The city council should invest in electric buses to reduce exhaust fumes from vehicles.

From time to time I play my part and pick up litter from the streets / clean up the beaches in my city. 


When I talk about being flexible when speaking in your exam, I talk about the ability to say the same thing in different ways. This is to avoid using the same words over and over again. (famous example are like, think, maybe, very)

To do my bit = To play my part = To contribute

From time to time = Once in a while = Every now and then = At times


3 Idioms

Finally, let’s look at three idioms you can use to talk pollution.

The level of air pollution in our city is getting out of hand = to be out of control. 

If we don’t take action, all of us will be in dire straits = to be in trouble.

Some people believe we’re running out of time when it comes to tackling climate change = to no longer have any time to finish some task or activity.


Closing notes

That’s it! Lot’s of expressions, verbs, collocations and idioms to help you speak with more confidence on the topic of pollution. 

I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please share it with someone who could benefit from it

If you have any questions about the podcast, or any feedback, anything you would like me to add or clarify, then do get in touch with me. You can email me at: kristian@getreadyforsuccess.com – I’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, go and check out my website, getreadyforsuccess.com. If you’re preparing for Cambridge C1, it’s a great place, full of interesting stuff.

All right, that’s all from me. Take care of yourself, and each other.  

Speak soon my friends 🙂 

About the Author

As a Dutch proficient speaker of English, Kristian not only holds a grade A Cambridge C2 certificate but is also CELTA qualified. His five years of experience as a teacher and ESL exam coach, specialising in Cambridge English C1, C2, and IELTS, has equipped him with a unique blend of skills to guide and support your English learning journey.

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