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. There's brand new stuff in the Kurzgesagt Merch Shop. Check it out here:

  2. Why don’t those stupid fish/birds stop eating plastic then? Sounds like survival of the fittest to me.

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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

  9. 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…

  10. 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.

  11. 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 🙏

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

  13. 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.

  14. 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?

  15. 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.

  16. What a lame advertisement for selling the Paris Agreement (aka globalism).

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

  18. Human Beings: The Great Filter is behind us!
    Plastics: I'ma 'bout to end these beings' whole lives!


  20. we are breathing, drinking and eating a credit card in weight of microscopic plastics each week, each bloody week! and rising, and it contains toxic chemicals and other nasties..its a small wonder we are not already dead..but we soon will be at this rate from organ failure.

  21. Asian countries are sending plastic through the rivers and European countries and America are directly dumping more than that into the ocean. Not addressed anywhere. The fact that America very bluntly said no to taking care of environment comes no where. These people colonised and took the values of Asians away which already had the 3R's taken care of. Not addressed anywhere.

  22. "But some how, we collectively decided to use this supper tough material for things we will throw away"

    -Humans (is meant to be intelligent species 👏)

  23. Who else thinks that the animal thing that represents the plastic power looks a bit like a furby?

  24. We need to ban plastic and keep the world a good world and a tidy world no littering forever in our life

  25. But why would i convince others to not use plastic stuff if non-plastic stuff seems like it's somehow worse and less efficient?

  26. Everyones so concerned about being offended these days….leave your feelings at home, because our "home" we call Earth, is going down the toilet

  27. UK,US, exports theirs plastic trash to Asia. They don't deal with recycle it is not cost effective for them. More easily is just shipped abroad. And after they start the blame game!!!

  28. We need to build a giant rocket and fly it to space with the thrash and plastic

  29. Lol. All of the factories in China produce for America and Europe. Culprit is America and Europe. Not Indonesia or India.

  30. UN: ok this button will ban oil and anything tat will destroy the environment
    Russia:wait a se-
    UN pressed the button
    the economy breaks
    UN:this is fine
    The power cuts off
    Environmentalists:ugh we dont need power stop being so selfi-
    Russia nukes itself becase its economy breaks down
    UN and environmentalists:crap

  31. Plastic can be converted into fuel. In 2016 a Nigerian invented a machine that does this, using the principles of pyrolysis.

  32. Back in the late 90's, there were plant-based biodegradable plastics coming on the market. I thought for sure by now they would have been improved, refined, and have dominated. What happened??? I'd sure like to know.

  33. No one
    Not asingle soul
    Not even the words
    Humans:i will save the earth
    drops plastic bag by accident

  34. Look this ain’t going to impact me at all I’ll be long dead by then I don’t care and no one should goddammit just cause of that one vid of that turtle with the straw it’s ruining life straws are being banned everywhere

  35. “It’s just one bottle, what’s the worse that can hapepen?”

    Said 8 fucking billion humans

  36. 8:00 Well, at least you've hit the nail on the head. If the United States banned all plastic production for eternity, China, India and a couple other countries wouldn't stop anything and they'd keep polluting. The US is really not the bad actor here. Maybe our mistake was selling the technology to countries that abuse the knowledge?

  37. we can use plastic to build infrastructure like skyscrapers roads highways shops houses and lot more this building they will not need so much
    repairs and new materials, for roads and highways its great

  38. Here are a bunch of plastic alternatives.

    Alpaca Balls – pop them in your dryer, bam! Dry in no time
    *Metal*, glass, bamboo or reusable plastic straws.
    Cotton or reusable bags.
    Bamboo toothbrushes – just make sure to compost!
    Bring a water bottle or coffee cup (reusable) next time you go to Starbucks.
    Bee wrap wax Is a AMAZING alternative to plastic cling wrap. It sticks on super well and can sometimes protect it from spoiling by a week to a couple of months! (Not to mention lots of colours!!)
    Compostable garbage bags are sort of OK, because the garbage dump isn’t the right environment for it to compost, however it is much better than plastic bags.
    Shampoo bars work just as fine as bottled shampoo, and even lasts longer! Just rub it on your hair and scalp, super easy.
    Reusable plastic take-out kits are great and when you ask for some of those macky dees, hand them the kit and they’ll put your order in there instead of giving plastic forks, packaging, etc.

    I’m sure there’s way more but I am very forgetful, lol. Anyways kids make sure to get a compost bin! Or just go to a cool place that sells eco friendly gear and chances are they may take your compost for them to compost for a $

  39. Yeah back in the eighties The liberal media said use plastics not paper Save the trees campaign I believe it's what it was called All liberal stuff by bites us i* t** a**

  40. Why don’t we just build with the plastic that’s still there??? Like reusing it. it’s very durable so..?

  41. If we do not fix things on a global scale over-fixing things in your own country is like carrying water to the sea….

  42. And the politicians who think they are most powerful will say this is a state or local problem.

  43. 2018 : plastic gets in humans
    2019 : plastic burns burning humans
    also plastic isn't made out of everything ;-;
    no it will kill birds

  44. I am new to all this. So excuse my ignorance but how can we avoid plastic? It is practically everywhere. Again I’m new to this.

  45. After the "big collapse" that is destined to happen, at least these resources will be around for a long time for us to use.  Containers, glues, building materials… At least the survivors will have something.

  46. An epidemic of hormonal issues is making everyone sick, infertile, and mentally unstable. It has only been around for a few generations. We're boned.

  47. It's the animals problem. Why are they eating plastic? Animals can also die if they eat rocks but they know rocks arent meant to be eaten.

  48. Me: Drinking From A Plastic Bottle While Watching This

  49. Khankir chele , gud marani…lawra…Lok k diye photo tolas…suor er bacha motherchod

  50. If every plastic had a number to recycle then it not all be tossed in trash and be recycled to be reused somehow. if so much is in the ocean, they gotta find a way to reuse it so it not just get tossed in ocean at anytime and ruin any food we eat like sea food etc.

  51. One time my country becomes example of something, it turns oit to be the bad example lol

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