Plastic Pollution: How Humans are Turning the World into Plastic

Plastic Pollution: How Humans are Turning the World into Plastic

When the gods granted king Midas one wish, he wished that everything he touched would turn to gold. Midas was delighted. Trees, rocks, buildings all gold. But soon he found in horror that his food turned into gold as well. When he hugged his daughter to soothe his pain, he realized his mistake too late. The richest man in existence was starving, heartbroken and alone. Humanity got a similar wish granted when we learned how to turn brown stinky goo into magic – plastic. Cheap, sterile and convenient it changed our lives But this wonder of technology got a little out of hand. Plastic has saturated our environment. It has invaded the animals we eat and now it’s finding its way into our bodies. [Catchy intro music] What is plastic? For most of our history humans used stuff we found in nature to build the things we needed. But the invention of plastic roughly 100 years ago completely changed our world. Plastic is made from polymers – long repeating chains of molecule groups. In nature, polymers exist everywhere : the walls of cells, silk, hair, insect carapaces, DNA. But it’s also possible to create them. By breaking down crude oil into its components and Rearranging them, we can form new synthetic polymers. Synthetic polymers have extraordinary traits. They are lightweight, durable and can be molded into almost any shape. Not requiring time-consuming manual work, plastic can be easily mass-produced and its raw materials are a vailable in vast amounts And incredibly cheaply, and so the golden era of plastics began Bakelite was used for mechanical parts, PVC for plumbing electric gears and cases, Acrylic is a shatter resistant alternative to glass and nylon for stockings and war equipment Today almost everything is at least partly made from plastic. Our clothes, phones, computers, furniture, appliances, houses and cars. Plastic has long ceased to be a revolutionary material instead it became trash. Coffee cups, plastic bags, or stuff to wrap a banana. We don’t think about this fact a lot. Plastic just appears and goes away. Unfortunately, it doesn’t Since synthetic polymers are so durable, plastic takes between 500 and 1,000 years to break down. But somehow we collectively decided to use this super tough material for things meant to be thrown away. 40% of plastics are used for packaging. In the United States, packaging makes up 1/3 of all the waste that is generated annually. Since its invention, we have produced about 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic. 335 million tons in 2016 alone. More than 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic have become waste since 1907. Piled up in one place, that makes a cube with a side length of 1.9 kilometers. So what did we do with all this waste? 9% was recycled, 12% burnt. But 79% of it is sticking around still. A lot ends up in the ocean. Around 8 million tons a year. That’s so much plastic that it will outweigh all the fish in the ocean by 2050. Because it’s everywhere, marine animals keep getting trapped in plastic and swallowing it. In 2015 already 90% of seabirds had eaten plastic. Many animals starve with stomachs full of indigestible trash. In 2018 a dead sperm whale washed up in Spain. He had eaten 32 kilos of plastic bags, nets and a drum While this is tragic and makes for great magazine covers, there’s an even more widespread, invisible form of plastic. Microplastics Microplastics are pieces smaller than 5 millimeters Some of them are used in cosmetics or toothpaste, but most result from floating waste that is constantly exposed to UV radiation And crumbles into smaller and smaller pieces 51 trillion such particles float in the ocean, Where they are even more easily swallowed by all kinds of marine life. This has raised concerns among scientists, especially about health risks from the chemicals that are added to plastic. BPA for example makes plastic bottles transparent But there’s also evidence that it interferes with our hormonal system. DEHP makes plastics more flexible, But may cause cancer. It would be pretty bad if micro plastics are toxic, because they travel up the food chain. Zooplankton eat micro plastic. Small fish eat zooplankton. So do oysters, crabs and predatory fish and they all land on our plate. Micro plastics have been found in honey, in sea salt, in beer, in tap water and in the household dust around us. 8 out of 10 babies and nearly all adults have measurable amounts of phthalates, a common plastic additive in their bodies. And 93% of people have BPA in their urine There is little science about this so far and right now it’s inconclusive. We need a lot more research before panic is justified. But it is safe to say that a lot of stuff happened that we didn’t plan for. And we have lost control Over plastic to a certain extent which is kind of scary. But just to make sure we should simply ban plastics, right? Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Plastic pollution is not the only environmental challenge we face. Some of the substitutes we’d use for plastic have a higher environmental impact in other ways. For example : according to a recent study by the Danish government, making a single-use plastic bag requires so little energy and produces far lower carbon dioxide emissions compared to a reusable cotton bag, that you need to use your cotton bag 7 thousand 100 times before it would have a lower impact on the environment than the plastic bag. We’re left with a complex process of trade-offs. Everything has an impact somehow, and it’s hard to find the right balance between them. Plastic also helps solve problems that we don’t have very good answers for at the moment. Globally, one-third of all food that’s produced is never eaten and ends up rotting away on landfills where it produces methane. And the best way of preventing food from spoiling and avoiding unnecessary waste is still plastic packaging. It’s also important to note where the vast majority of the world’s plastic pollution is coming from right now. 90% of all plastic waste entering the ocean through rivers comes from just ten rivers in Asia and Africa. The Yangtze in China alone flushes 1.5 million tons of plastic into the ocean each year. Countries like China, India Algeria or Indonesia industrialized at an impressive pace in the last few decades, transforming the lives of billions of people This development was so fast, that the garbage disposal infrastructure couldn’t keep up with collecting and recycling all the new waste this brought If politicians in Europe and the US want to address this issue, investing in infrastructure in developing countries is just as important as fighting plastic pollution at home with campaigns and redesigning products to minimize unnecessary plastic production. The bottom line is, as long as we don’t address plastic pollution from a global perspective, we will not solve it. Plastic pollution is a complicated problem. We found a magic material and we had a really good time with it, But we need to be careful or just like Midas, we’ll end up in a world that we didn’t wish for. Your individual daily actions still have a huge impact. What you do matters! Refuse disposable plastics. Convince your friends and family to do the same. Pressure companies and politicians to take the necessary steps to keep our oceans clean and our food safe. Together we can beat plastic pollution! This video was a collaboration with UN Environment and their clean seas campaign. If you want to take action to turn the tide on plastics, go to and make your pledge.

100 thoughts on “Plastic Pollution: How Humans are Turning the World into Plastic

  1. The real solution for pollution is that everyone consume less things that we don't need and pressure companies to make materials biodegradable

  2. I felt really bad of hearing this video, but the humans will never learn because *THERE ARE HUMANS*, Right? But I wish they learned there lesson

  3. here is the solution keep making plastic till there is something better discovered and just trow your fucking plastic trash(and other trash) in the trash bin

  4. Apparently european countries export their trash in containers to third world countries like Indonesia, malaysia or Phillipines instead of recycling them…

  5. The real problem is the number of humans. No solution is possible to save our planet if the population keeps growing. We humans need to stop having kids. Soon.

  6. when the intro hasn't even come yet and i'm in pain already

    edit: Okay we for real need to work on making things with less plastic materials or/and making less use of plastic ourselves.

  7. I hope that after 100 years we will be able to send the plastic into space but not near our planet there is enough room in the Ort Cloud for him in the next billion years.

  8. Hemp plastics could replace all plastic materials and is also biodegradable, easy to grow massive crops, and since hemp is high in nitrogen it enriches the soil around the crops

  9. Isn't it possible that an organism that consumes and decomposes plastic could either be created once technology advances to that point, or even come about naturally? Would be interesting to examine the consequences of that. It might start eliminating plastics in the environment faster than it gets dumped in. Hopefully it wouldn't be harmful on its own because that organism would have food literally anywhere. Though it would have a hard impact on objects intended to stay in the environment, outdoor appliances and utility. Plastic pipes and components in electrical systems would be very vulnerable. We might have to decide between plastics durability in unsanitary/low maintenance areas or keep it from killing. I'm not a biologist so I don't know, but nature might decide for us.

  10. Unbelievable that Germany is the only country with „Pfand“ which means that you pay 25 cents extra every time you buy plastic bottles and you get it back when you return the bottle.

  11. no offense to any body but humans are stupid, we won't start to fixing things till something big happens why didn't people start cleaning plastic ages ago

  12. I had promised to not to eat junk food packed in plastic (chips biscuits noodles etc) which is better for my health and environment ..

  13. Hey Kurzgesagt, your videos are always great, but this one have a serious mistake. Most of the garbage thrown at rivers in Asia are not from their own consumption, but imported trash from all over the world, specially rich countries.

    So blaming it all on their rapid industrialisation isn't just wrong but can also be used by western deniers who just want to blame somebody else and do nothing about the problem.

    Please, check this info, which you can easily find good sources about

  14. This channel is incredible and very informative – in fact a little too informative 😂 it makes me realize how everything can suck so much xD and how I can die at legit any second, how im wrecking myself and killing myself. Cancer, cancer, cancer…I am very concerned about myself now

  15. I wish we can threw trash we don’t need into the forest and the sea and then suddenly it evaporates into nothing

  16. plastic is great, the best, we can't stop using it, would be a stupid thing to do, now people need to learn to throw the plastic in the trash can, that way there is no pollution.

  17. well when the time comes it will come, or do something about this. We can work as a team, or we could just let schools destroy our children's dreams.

    A. Tack action
    B. Whatever has happened will never be dealt with
    C. You have the rights to say, do anything

  18. Whe gota do something fisch die we wil die in on point because of plastic every one who wants to join me like or react thanks thogether whel make the world a better place # ban plastic

  19. We are killing the earth everybody man I wish there was some that could remove all excessive plastic in the world which includes plastic in the ocean other areas it shouldn’t be etc

  20. Nature: Please don't throw your trash in the ocean, you are making a mistake.
    Humans: Yea yea shut up.
    Micro plastic: starts killing humans
    Nature: What did i say.

  21. Sorry but i dont understand problem.
    Yes, there is a lots of plastic. But this is dont kill peoples. İn the worst scenario kills some fishs.
    İ think we must think climate change, because this is very big problem and plastic is little problem

  22. How about plastic – digesting Bacteria? Maybe one mutation will change the world some time and they will use a highly available energy resource…

  23. I think that you should take in account that planned obsolescence also plays a big role in contributing to plastic waste. I think a huge step for humanity would be to ban corporations and companies to use planned obsolescence if their goods are made out of plastic.

  24. We really need to get the word out on this. This is like the Romans with Lead Pipes, we have no idea that we are destroying ourselves.

  25. i thought the solution was developed long ago, recycling? real recycling not just burning it for energy production. i mean probably about 70% of all plastics are polymers that can be reused , stuff like PP/PE/PET or the styrene group. the problem is not the plastics but the people… it is just cheaper to throw it into the oceans and the solution for that would be to make it more expansive up to the point where people don't even think about throwing it away.

  26. Stop using plastics right away. Don't live in showoff world. India is taking initiatives to end use of plastics 100%. Why don't some very civilized country ignore Plastic Ban? Are you really civilized or just civilized with pen and paper?

  27. There you are, enjoying your plastic things, and suddenly, the world is made of plastic
    You didn't ask for this
    You didn't choose this
    But yet there it is

  28. 6:27

    single use plastic bag.
    Dont people understand yo can use the plastic bag at least 50 times? the "throw away plastic bag", is reusable. you dont have to throw it away…

  29. 90% of all plastic in the ocean comes from just 10 rivers; two are in in Africa and the other eight are in Asia… with China dumping 50% alone.

  30. Thank you so much! I chose this topic for my speeches at my school and will be presenting some of your information! You really helped me out, thank you 🙏

  31. Global warming, plastic polution, nuclear warheads, asteroids, over population….. Dumb ways to die, so many dumb ways to die.

  32. Everyone at work were supplied with ceramic mugs to drink their coffee and tea so as to reduce Styrofoam use in the staff lunchroom.

    The detergents, bleach and hot water plus extra energy to make, transport and keep cleaning the mugs plus their eventual disposal were probably a net positive for the environment but only at a guess.

  33. Why doesnt school teach us these things. Whats the point of teaching different subjects if we wont be able to use them since we wont be alive from pollution?

  34. When will Humans realize what are the consequences of their actions and the pollution they are causing? Like,after experiencing the punishment they received by their immediate actions? Please,we do really need to help cleanse our planet,and that means all of us contributing to taking care of our planet.Well,then,why should we? Because we are the one who caused this whole problem,and that we should also repay the damage we sustained.

  35. How many people complaining, smoke cigarettes? Those cigarette filters are always laying around. People who smoke certainly shouldn’t talk about unnecessary waste.

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