ENTERTAINMENT

The creators of Blue Planet have made millions from advertising plastic bottles clogging the oceans.


What planet are you on? The creators of Blue Planet have made millions from advertising plastic bottles clogging the oceans.

  • Alastair Fothergill advertised the largest bottled water manufacturer in China
  • Nongfu spring bottles pollute oceans and coasts around the world
  • The decision was made despite working on BBC's Blue Planet and Netflix's Our Planet

The creators of the BBC series Blue Planet made a fortune promoting one of the world's largest manufacturers of single-use plastic bottles.

The company is believed to have received millions of pounds from Alastair Fothergill after producing advertisements for Chinese company Nongfu Spring, which sells 15 billion bottles of water annually.

Silverback Films – founded by Mr Fothergill and his colleague Keith Scholey – shot the commercials in the style of natural history documentaries, with birds flying over snow-capped mountains and tigers drinking from crystal clear streams.

Now, discarded bottles are routinely viewed as polluting the oceans and coasts around the globe by Nongfu Spring, the largest water bottle maker in China.

The company is believed to have received millions of pounds from Alastair Forthergill after promoting Chinese mineral water company Nongfu Spring (pictured)

Mr. Fothergill – nicknamed "Spielberg of Wildlife Television" – produced the 2001 Blue Planet series, which was presented by Sir David Attenborough. His longtime associate, Mr Scholey, was head of the BBC's natural history department at the time.

Last year, the couple created the Emmy award-winning Netflix series Our Planet, also presented by Sir David, which identified plastic in the oceans as a "serious" problem.

Mr Fothergill and Mr Scholey are ambassadors for WWF – a campaign calling for an urgent UN agreement to end the plastic pollution crisis. The WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund, has warned that eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the oceans every year to suffocate wildlife.

Our planet was made by Silverback Films, which the couple founded in 2012 after Mr Fothergill left his job as development director for the BBC's Natural History Unit. Mr Scholey, former controller of BBC Factual, left the company in 2008 to start an independent film production company.

The company made nearly £ 2 million from its bottled water project, according to company reports, prior to partnering with Netflix.

Fothergill (pictured right) with Keith Scholey and Sir David Attenborough helped create the BBC's Blue Planet and Netflix's Our Planet

Fothergill (pictured right) with Keith Scholey and Sir David Attenborough helped create the BBC's Blue Planet and Netflix's Our Planet

Silverback Films does not publish its role in creating water bottle advertisements or mention it on its website – although it claims that "many of its smaller productions" have been omitted from the website.

However, composer David Mitcham described how he created the score for the "Series of Ads and Short Films" for Nongfu and wrote on his website that it was "produced by the leading independent wildlife film production company Silverback Films". Cinematographer Gavin Thurston, who worked on the BBC series Blue Planet II and Planet Earth, also lists the Nongfu ad on his professional website.

Neither Mr. Fothergill nor Mr. Scholey were involved in the making of Blue Planet II – which was also introduced by Sir David. This series played an important role in highlighting the dangers of plastic in the ocean.

Mr Fothergill said in a previous interview that he was "delighted" with the incredible success of Blue Planet II and the role it played in highlighting the dangers of plastic. Speaking to the Daily Mail's weekend magazine on the advancement of our planet, he emphasized the role humankind must play in turning the tide against the destruction of the natural world. "We don't have time to hesitate, but humanity can still turn things around," he said.

Mr Fothergill and Mr Scholey continue to work with the BBC.

Bottles made by Nongfu Springs pollute oceans and coasts around the world

Bottles made by Nongfu Springs pollute oceans and coasts around the world

Nongfu is the largest mineral water seller in China. It sells a premium brand that is served in glass bottles, but most of the water is in plastic bottles.

A survey by a Chinese nonprofit group last year found that nongfu bottles are a major polluter on the country's shores. Mr Scholey and Mr Fothergill, who live in a £ 2 million Bristol house, said they were approached by Nongfu Spring in 2016.

They said, "Silverback Films understands the problems surrounding plastic, but unfortunately tap water is too poor to drink in many areas of China, which is one of the reasons why the country uses so much bottled water."

A WWF spokesman who worked in partnership with Our Planet said he was not involved in this project with Nongfu.

Sir David and Nongfu Spring did not respond when asked to comment.

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