Theme Week

We’ve made enough to wrap the world 6 times over.

Another awesome infographic from

This year, we’ll crack petroleum into another 200 billion pounds. Good folks, like you, will recycle 5%. But even those bits won’t really go away.

Each and every plastic polymer in your lifetime of water bottles, shopping bags, sporks and Styrofoam cups is still out there somewhere… leaching and sponging toxins, hatching mutant sex organs at the bottom of our food chain.

What to do? Get informed, break the habit, show and tell a friend. Invest in and insist on alternatives. Get behind innovative technologies that convert garbage into goods. Channel waste into art and enterprise.

And next time you hear, “Wanna bag with that?” No way! REFUSE, reduce, reuse, recycle.

First, some inspiration. Sit back and soak up the story of plastic–its brief history, its growing impact, and a host of innovative ways to deal with it, cradle-to-cradle, and to cultivate alternatives. Enjoy!

THE GRADUATE: Just one word...
Just one word. Are you listening?

Captured on celluloid, one of the more memorable lines from Hollywood sums up our love affair with polymers, circa 1967.


Plastics Timeline
The 1940's. Plastics in the war! Perspex canopies fitted to Spitfires! Bakelite encased hand grenades!

The history of synthetic plastics spans barely 100 years. As this gushing PR film reports, the impact has been revolutionary. Indeed, in many applications, plastics are beyond compare–lightweight, sturdy, even life-saving in the form of medical devices and Kevlar armor. And yet, considering the energy cost of plastics, and their rapid accumulation in wild places, we must ask ourselves, are we making the best use, and re-use, of these valuable resources? The recent explosion of single-use plastics, and our throw-away mindset regarding materials that are millions of years in the making, and hundreds of years in their decomposition, might give us cause for worry.

Commissioner: British Plastics Federation 

The Shape of Plastics (Part I)
A wealth of new materials--made by men. Materials by the mile, and by the ton.

A 1962 marketing film paints a rosy (fluorescent pink?) picture of our plastic future. Set to swinging jazz, it all sounds swell!


The Shape of Plastics (Part II)
So many ways... to make so many things. The list is endless.

More hot pink montage of “Plastics… infinite in shape and purpose.”


Tomorrowland's House of the Future (Part I)
Is everything of plastic? Almost. Dishes, cups, countertops, walls, floors, ceiling, tabletops, shelves and cabinets!

Monsanto Chemical Company, Plastics Division presents: Monsanto’s House of the Future, in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland! Dreamy features forseen for 1986 include plastic, irradiated food, plastic, and the scent of fresh roses (plastic?) at the push of a button.

Commissioner: Monsanto 

Tomorrowland's House of the Future (Part II)
One more look through the Thermopane windows, with decorative plastic laminated safety glass. Functional, beautiful... another dream of the future in the House of Tomorrow.

The model home–one of a small handful of free attractions at Disneyland–received 20 million visitors over its 10-year lifespan: 1957-1967. As advertised, the materials were indestructible, unlike our fickle taste in design. A one-day demolition was foiled when a wrecking ball bounced off the polyester facade. It took two weeks for the house to lose its battle against hacksaws, torches, jackhammers and choker cables. The foundation still stands as a planter box.

Commissioner: Monsanto 

PLASTIC PLANET: Feature Documentary Trailer
In the fluid part of the blood you have measurable levels of bisphenol-A.

Stone, bronze, iron… ours is the Age of Plastic. Are we safe? Filmmaker Werner Boote takes us on a global mission to find out.

Filmmaker: First Run Features 

Seas of Plastic: Captain Charles Moore
Only we humans make trash that nature can't digest.

Testimony from the seaman who discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a zone in which toxin-sponging plastic is 6x more prevalent than zooplankton at the bottom of the marine food web. With evidence gathered from his own research vessel, and disturbing images of wildlife impacts, he makes the case that cleanup of our oceans is impossible. Our only way forward is to wean ourselves of non-biodegradable plastics, and to stop pollution at our shores–source of 80-90% of the solid waste found at sea.

Distributor: TED Talks 

The Colbert Report: Captain Charles Moore
Moore: "It's an enorrmous zone, stretching from China to California."

Colbert: "That's a huge zone. That's actually called 'The Pacific Ocean'"

Colbert asks Moore to get straight into “massively bumming me out”. But as expected, he finds the lighter side of turning our seas into plastic wastelands.

Filmmaker: The Colbert Report  Broadcaster: Comedy Central 

Trash Vortex
It's in the middle of nowhere. And because we can't see it we pretend it doesn't exist.

A charming animation tells the story of a rubber ducky’s tortuous voyage through the Pacific Ocean’s “plastic soup”.

Filmmaker: Mette Menting 

TAPPED: Bottled Water v. Health and Environment
If you eliminate the scourge of bottled water, you'll be eliminating one of the biggest problems facing our environment.

A trailer from TAPPED, a one-hour documentary that looks at how the bottled water industry impacts health, climate change, pollution and our dependence on oil. Notable Quotables: “Americans buy 29 billion single-serve water bottles every year.” (Less than 20% are recycled.) “We should realize that a lot of bottled water is tap water.” (About 40%.) “Bottled water is the greatest marketing and advertising trick of all time.” (Supporting an $11.5 billion industry in 2007.)

Filmmaker: Atlas Films 

Future History: Plastic Water Bottle
What reason could any culture have to build a simple container which requires vastly more resources than the thing it contains?

Archaeologists of the future puzzle over the purpose of plastic water bottle, deposited en masse in the age of petroleum, prior to planetary evacuation.


Toughest Place to be a Binman
He's crazy, man! I wouldn't do it [clearing the street drains of plastic]. And I know Health and Safety wouldn't let me do it.

Jungle Run Productions organized this BBC Two shoot that paired a London rubbish collector with his counterpart in Jakarta. The Londoner was amazed to find no sorting of trash for recycling, and duties that include pulling a hefty cart by hand and clearing plastic from open drains. He was reduced to tears. Since the program aired on 29 January 2012, several viewers have pledged their support for the Jakarta binman and his family.

Filmmaker: BBC Two  Broadcaster: BBC Two 

Strange Days: Bisphenol A
Vom Saal is worried because studies show tiny amounts of BPA derail early cell development in mice. And if mice are vulnerable, might people be as well?

Follow Dr. Fred vom Saal into waterways where fish are sprouting both ovaries and testicles. Is the trouble linked to tiny concentrations of bisphenol A (BPA)? This synthetic estrogen leaches from polycarbontes, used for hard water bottles, and from the epoxy resin that lines canned foods and drinks. More than 8 billion pounds of BPA are used in manufacturing each year. Daily doses of just micrograms per kilogram body weight are linked to development issues, lowered fertility, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Filmmaker: Sea Studios  Commissioners: National Geographic  | PBS 

Midway Journey - Plastic Beach
This is food. That's a tiny shrimp. This is not food. This is plastic. but that's what the fish are eating.

A team spends an hour cleaning a 30-meter stretch of beach on Midway Island, only to find that each and every wave brings a fresh delivery of plastic.


MIDWAY film trailer
As we observe the birds dying... and opening their stomachs and seeing all the plastic, we also were always presented with this juxtaposition of this incredibly beautiful natural paradise.

Photographer Chris Jordan, whose shocking portraits of albatross carcasses chock full of plastic trash, returns to capture the drama of beauty and horror playing out in the Pacific.

Filmmakers: Jan Vozenilek  | Joe Schweers  Commissioners: Compton Foundation  | NextNow Collaboratory 

MIDWAY - Harbor Trap
Every now and then we'd see a fairly strong-looking bird make it's way to this raft, and it looked to us like they thought they were heading for land.

Chris Jordan and his film crew find a raft of plastic debris, where hundreds of albatross have met a cruel death, and more are flocking to join them.

Filmmakers: Jan Vozenilek  | Joe Schweers  Commissioners: Compton Foundation  | NextNow Collaboratory 

TOXIC: Garbage Island
There's a misconception that the worst kind of spill is that gooey oily mess, where it's really these nice little bits of your plastic bottles that are going to be around forever, basically.

A crew from the raw, rarely edited Vice Magazine sets sails with Captain Charles Moore to see if the Pacific’s “plastic island” is just an urban myth. Says editor Thomas Morton, “What we realized was, there wasn’t an island of trash. But there was something a lot worse and which held far, far more sinister implications for us than simply a flotilla of bottles and cans.” Be warned: this discovery provokes strong, unedited language from the Vice crew. Probably well-justified.


One Beach
(I want to) promote the use of found objects and turning something that used to be trash into art. That way people can see it and be inspired to do the same.

An inspiring film follows artists who upcycle trash, a sailor on a mission to probe a plastic gyre, and a movement to have fun while cleaning up the beach.


One Plastic Beach
The opposite of beauty isn't ugly. The opposite of beauty is indifference.

Indulge yourself in this touching short featuring beach plastic “curators”, Richard and Judith Selby Lang. JUDITH: “We really like to say that this is a love story. From our first date at Kehoe Beach, a whole life has unfolded.” RICHARD: “We decided that we were going to go to the beach, and go as often as we could, and see what we could collect in one year. We started specializing in one item: juice lid caps… We thought, let’s make a trophy of our days at the beach, so we made a trophy fish. In that one year, we collected at least 2 tons–4000 pounds of plastic.”

Filmmaker: High Beam Media 

The World's Deepest Bin
Fun can obviously change behavior for the better.

Garbage, gamified. A rubbish bin rigged with sound effects collects nearly twice the haul of a normal bin, not far away.

Commissioner: Volkswagen 

Bottle Bank Arcade
Over one evening our bottle bank arcade was used by nearly 100 people. During the same period, the nearby conventional bottle bank was used twice.

OK, so this machine eats glass, not plastic. But we couldn’t deny you this clever invention that makes recyclers feel like winners.

Commissioner: Volkswagen 

Bombastic Plastix! A Trashonista Paradise in Bali
I started with a $5 iron on the floor of my kitchen. It doesn't take a genius to see the potential of this.

An American metalsmith and his Balinese bride have fine-tuned a technique for recycling post-consumer plastic bags. Heat-welding multiple layers with intricate cut-out patterns, they produce lightweight, waterproof, durable, brilliantly colored textiles, and stitch them into bags and wallets.

Commissioner: Bombastic Plastix 

Electrolux: Vacs from the Sea
We could definitely use more high-grade recycled plastics. If there were such around.

Bemoaning a shortfall of high-grade recycled plastic, Electrolux worked with environmental agencies to collect plastic from the oceans’ five garbage gyres. Each was molded into a concept vacuum cleaner. Sadly, you won’t find the vacs at your nearest mall. They’re only for display purposes.


Filipinos Combat Flooding with Recycling
I want to save the Earth. The garbage that shouldn't be thrown away can be reused, and I also learned that recyclables can help a lot of people.

When Typhoon Ketsana ravaged Manila, in 2009, the Marikina neighborhood was badly flooded. Clogged storm drains, choked by plastic bags, multiplied the impact of the disaster. A year later, this report finds local residents tackling recycling with a vengeance. Before the floods there were no recycling stations. Within a year, there were 80. The effort bridges religious barriers and unites the community on disaster recovery and preparedness.

Broadcaster: Da Ai Headlines 

Beth Terry: Living Plastic Free
This looks a little bit extreme. I realize that it is. But my goal is not to tell everyone they should get rid of all the plastic in their life... but just to show what's possible... We have the power to change the menu that's been offered to us, and we have the power to change the world.

One woman makes a commitment to a life without plastic. The change is more challenging, and more rewarding, than she expected. As an accountant and blogger, she quantifies and documents her effort, sharing the ups and downs and her discoveries.


Your Plastic Will Outlive You!
Plastic rubbish takes 200 to 1,000 years to break down. Reduce your use of plastic!

An animated PSA portrays a little girl outlived by a piece of rubbish that she carelessly tosses away.

Filmmaker: Jungle Run Productions  Broadcaster: Bumi Hijau TV  Distributor: Jungle Run Productions  Commissioner: Jungle Run Productions 

Plastic Planet: The Curse of the Carrier Bag
We pay our tax to the local authority, and for that we expect our streets to be "clean of crime, and clean of grime". That process... robs people of the deep understanding of the consequences of doing that.

A UK perspective on the single-use plastic bag. The filmmaker reports that one has even been spotted in space! Many fewer, however, are spotted in Ireland which has imposed a levy to discourage use.

Filmmaker: Petica Watson 

Ed Norton: Bag the Bag!
So listen, bag the bags! Seriously. BYOB. Bring your own bag to the grocery store. One small step, that leads to big change.

Actor Ed Norton asks us to put a stop to the “insidious global tumbleweeds”–the 500 billion plastic shopping bags that we use and discard every year.

Filmmaker: Sea Studios  Commissioners: National Geographic  | PBS 

Bag It! Trailer
Just because plastic is disposable doesn't mean it just goes away. After all, where is away? There is no away.

An award-winning feature documentary follows “everyman” Jeb Berrier on a quest to see where plastic bags come from, and where they go. Looking deeper, he finds a society addicted to all manners of plastic, with impacts on waterways, oceans, even our own bodies. But its not too late, and in the end Jeb shows us how to kick the worst of the habit.


Plastic State of Mind
BP's oil spill
Almost like we did it
We use one million grocery-bags
every single minute

A playful, but serious, take on Jay Z and Alicia Keyes’ Empire State of Mind. Brilliant!

Filmmaker: Ben Zolno, New Message Media  Commissioner: Green Sangha 

Diet Kantong Plastik PSA
Diet Kantong Plastik itu mudah dan menyenangkan. Iya kan? Ayo ekspresikan caramu ber-Diet Kantong Plastik.

An upbeat message encourages us to refuse plastic bags, and better yet, to bring our own. Support the campaign and order a few of Greeneration Indonesia’s reusable bags at the link below.

Commissioner: Greeneration Indonesia 

Planet Police: Plastic Bag Sting Op
SGT. UNDERWOOD: Over a hundred billion users in the US alone.

SGT: LACROIX: The addiction is so very real.

A lighter take on the move to ban the bag. Just say no! SYNOPSIS: Plastic bags: an American addiction. Lucky for you, the Planet Police are here for the intervention. Find out if their covert sting operation will yield results in this unscripted “Cops” parody.

Filmmaker: Titan Greens 

Flat-out Bag Ban Falls Flat
Our plastic ban in Delhi was based on the notion of beating and policing such a ban, and it doesn't work. If you compare it with other kinds of bans in other parts of the world, what we found is that they haven't been bans. They've been taxes. The Irish put a very small tax, Washington, D.C., put a small tax. But the plastic bag usage just collapsed after that.

Bans and levies on plastic bags are in force in a quarter of the world’s countries (Wikipedia). But in the absence of convenient alternatives, a strict ban in New Delhi is breaking down, according to this June 2010 report. By contrast, Washington D.C.’s five-cent tax on each single-use plastic bag, enacted in 2010, cut usage by 80% in one year.

Broadcaster: NTDTV China 

Empowering Waste Collectors
We are the heroes of the Earth! We clean the Earth of plastic.

Danone AQUA and Ashoka collaborate on the “Pemulung Empowerment Program”. Working with local organizations, they propose social business solutions to improve the economy and living conditions of traditional waste pickers. Improved sorting of plastics, for instance, allows the collectors to earn a higher price on recycling stock. According to the United Nations’ Our World 2.0, 1% of urban dwellers in the developing world make their living by collecting and scavenging waste. In Jakarta, this contributes to the recycling of about a third of the city’s solid waste.

Commissioner: Danone AQUA 

Mike Biddle: We Can Recycle Plastic
Now when you see these mountains, most people think of garbage. We see above-ground mines.

While we think of plastic as a throw-away material, by weight it’s more valuable than steel. And yet we only recycle 5%. The challenge has been sorting plastic, dependent on cheap manual labor, often at the expense of justice, health and environment. Mike Biddle demonstrates a revolutionary technology for sorting and recycling all forms of plastic into high-quality stocks, on par with virgin plastics.

Filmmaker: TED Talks 

Plastic Bags to Building Posts in Kenya
I feel great. And I feel I'm doing something great for this nation. And this can be replicated any place in the world

Meanwhile, over in Kenya, another social entrepreneur has come up with yet another way to build a successful business recycling plastic bags… Making fence posts!

Filmmakers: Rocketboom  | Ruud Elmendorp  Broadcaster: Rocketboom 

Paving with Plastic
Plastic is a menace and we have planned to use it more gainfully, for the construction of the roads.

An experimental project in northern India incorporates waste plastic into asphalt road mix. The “polymerized bitumen” outlasts traditional roads in an area where monsoonal floods have been made worse by plastic-choked waterways.

Broadcaster: NTDTV 

A Plastic Bottle of Light!
"A Liter of Light, is a sustainable lighting project which aims to bring the eco-friendly Solar Bottle Bulb to disprivileged communities [across the Philippines]."

Over in the Philippines, people that have never had, or could never afford electricity are lighting their homes with an ingenious, simple, cheap and totally recycled invention. Originally inspired by an engineer from MIT named Amy Smith, the Solar Bottle Light Bulb is changing lives across the country. Any entrepreneurs out there ready to take on the challenge here in Indonesia?

Filmmaker: Al Jazeera English  Broadcaster: Al Jazeera English  Distributor: Al Jazeera English 

Tabletop Trash to Oil Converter
People begin to see that this is not garbage. This plastic waste, the bottle cap, the lunch container, is oil. So when a child understands this, the garbage gets cleaned up.

Akinori Ito markets small machines that convert plastic to oil, and mini-refineries that yield gasoline, kerosene, diesel and heavy oil. Small means table-top to shed-sized–ideal for household, business, village or neighborhood use. One kilogram of polyethylene or polypropylene generates one liter of oil, at 70% energy efficiency.

Commissioner: United Nations University 

Plastic2Oil: Overcoming the Barriers
Once we had the science down the pat, we hit the next barrier, which is support.

John Bordynuik reviews challenges overcome while developing the technology and–just as important–the public will to convert plastic to oil. Now CEO of JBI, Inc., he has developed a low-cost, small-scale processor that transforms unsorted, unwashed waste plastic into clean, ultra-low sulphur fuel that doesn’t need refining. Two Plastic2Oil® processors are now online, with a third on the way.

Filmmaker: TEDx Buffalo 

Are Mushrooms the Next Plastic?
So, why mycelium? The first reason is local open feedstocks. You want to be able to do this anywhere in the world... The next is self-assembly... You don't need a lot of equipment to set up a production facility. So you can have lots of small facilities spread all across the world.

Eben Bayer of Ecovative Design takes us behind the scenes on the “self-assembly” of a plastic alternative, grown from fungus and agricultural waste. The biocomposite can fit any form, makes use of local refuse, and can be composted at the end of its life. Early use is as a packaging substitute for Styrofoam–a toxic, energy-hungry petrochemical that takes up 25% of US landfills. Future applications include building materials, car bumpers and shoe soles.

Filmmaker: TED Talks 

Cereplast: Bioplastic Hits the Big Time
We make plastics that are made out of plants, instead of petroleum.

Cereplast makes plastics out of potatoes, tapioca, corn and algae. Nasdaq-listed, the company is taking bioplastics to scale, offering both Cereplast Compostables®, suitable for single-use applications, and Cereplast Sustainables®, suitable for automotive, electronics and packaging applications.


Future Now: Greenhouse Gas to Plastic
Someone has to tackle it. The industry is obviously occupied with making money. These are difficult times. Everything's moving so fast. So I think having a university advocate is a good thing.

As petroleum grows scarce, Bernhard Rieger, professor of chemistry at Munich’s Technical University, looks to carbon dioxide as the raw material of the future. Using special catalysts, he creates biodegradable plastics that are 50% CO2. While not yet cost-competitive with petroleum-based plastics, he believes their marketability is only a matter of time and scale.

Broadcaster: Deutsche Welle  Commissioner: Deutsche Welle