Script for Plastics Are Forever Presentation
•Introduce yourself and why you’re interested in this topic
•Explain that you are here to speak about the impact of plastics waste on the
environment and our health, and what people can do to solve the problem.
Section One: What is plastic, and how did we get here
Slide 1: How did plastics to be so popular?
• Became popular after World War 2 (1940’s and 50’s)
• WW II shortages accelerated production of synthetic replacements for
rope, rubber, metal and paper – Before this, we saved everything
• Wives/Moms could be more productive by not having to waste time
washing and putting dishes away
• The problem: every fork, knife, spoon and cup you see in this picture is
still in existence today
• Plastic doesn’t EVER go away – Where is away?
Slide 2: Whats made of plastic?
• We use plastics every day. From Cell phones to computers to artificial
hearts to tooth brushes - we’re surrounded by it.
• Plastic is strong and durable and should be made for things that need to
last a long time (tires, computers)
• But plastics Should NOT be for “disposable” things that are used for a
minute or two and then thrown away (water bottles, star bucks cups,
styrofoam to go containers)
Slide 3: What is plastic made of?
• What is plastic is made of? IT’S MADE FROM PETROLEUM! Plastic =
petroleum + chemicals + dyes
• Petroleum plastic doesn’t easily break down, but we make products from it
that are designed to throw away.
• However it will photodegrade, which means sunlight breaks it into smaller
Slide 4: How many plastic bottles get used every year?
Who can guess how many plastic beverage bottles get used in the US every
We consume 50 billion water bottles every year in the US alone. That’s almost
8,000 bottles every five seconds
Slide 6: What about recycling?
• Many of you are probably thinking, “but I recycle”
• Recycling is great, but can any of you guess what percentage of plastic
actually gets recycled here in the US?
Slide 10: Recycling rates
• Less than 5-10% of our plastic actually gets recycled (based on where you
• Look at the big gap between what is made (red line) and what is recycled
• This graph is from 1995, imagine how much more we produce today, with
ipods, plastic water bottles, etc.
• In 10th grade we take a field trip to Puente Hills, Los Angeles’ largest
landfill and we learned that they ship all of their plastics to China to be
recycled, which means it requires more energy, AND we are sending our
problems to another country to deal with (pollution, trash)
• Where does your recycling go? Visit your local recycling center.
Slide 11: Where Waste Goes
• We produce approx. 120 billion pounds of plastic in the US every year.
Where does it go?
• 1/2 of this goes straight to the landfill. It gets buried.
• Roughly 20% gets remade into durable goods - things like car bumpers or
• Between 5-10% gets recycled. Which means we recover it and ship it
• That still leaves 25% unaccounted for.....
Slide 12: The missing 25%
• That 25% of plastics that are “unaccounted for” wind up in our streets,
rivers, and storm drains
• More than 80% of the trash in the ocean comes from the streets (urban
runoff) -- only 20% comes from ships
• These are stormdrains, trash that goes into these flow straight to the
ocean (there is no filter or treatment)
• The picture on the right is the LA River. This could be any river in America
after a major rain. Everything eventually winds up in the ocean.
Slide 13: LA Beaches after a rain
• These pictures show what our oceans look like after it rains in LA
• All the trash from our streets have flooded to the ocean
• The top photo is Ballona Creek, you can see a net catching some of the
plastics. They remove this net when it rains, so that our streets don’t flood
due to back up caused by all the trash.
Slide 14: Great Pacific Garbage Patch
•After the plastic ends up in the ocean, what happens to it?
•Our oceans are made up of complex networks of currents that circulate water
around the world. These currents create “gyres”, massive, slow rotating
whirlpools in which plastic trash can accumulate.
•Like a giant toilet bowl that never flushes
•The North Pacific is the most studied. Its also known as the “Great Pacific
•The gyre is approximately twice the size of the US and plastic continues
accumulating in it
•Up to 80% of the debris in the North Pacific Gyre is plastic
Slide 19: Captain Charles Moore and AMRF
• In 1997, Captain Charles Moore sailed from Hawaii to Los Angeles, and
discovered an alarming amount of floating plastic trash.
• Since then, Captain Moore and the Algalita Marine Research Foundation
have been studying plastic pollution in the North Pacific Gyre, bringing the
“Great Pacific Garbage Patch” to the world’s attention.
• Algalita has been across the North Pacific gyre 9 times with a research
vessel, collecting samples of the oceans surface. (Hold up an actual gyre
sample, collected thousands of miles from land).
• Here you can see a sample of the North Pacific Ocean, filled with broken
down pieces of plastic trash. Our oceans are becoming a “plastic soup”.
Slide 20: The 5 Gyres
(Atlantic garbage patch)
• Many people don’t realize that there are actually 5 oceanic gyres where
plastic is believed to accumulate. Here you can see all 5.
• This year the 5 Gyres project sailed to the North Atlantic and Indian Ocean
Gyres, and found plastic in both. Next year they’re going to the South
Atlantic and South Pacific. We know that plastic pollution is a global issue.
SECTION 3: PLASTICS AND MARINE ANIMALS
Slide 22: Mae West
This is “Mae West”, a snapping turtle that got trapped in a plastic ring when she
was a baby. As she grew, the plastic ring didn’t grow with her. This is an example
of how even small pieces of plastic trash can have serious consequences when
they wind up in the wrong place. (PAUSE)
Follow up video by repeating that phrase: “plastics are designed to last forever,
but we make products from it that are designed to throw away.” This just doesn’t
Slide 23: Turtle caught in a 6-pack ring
Slide 24: Plastic from ships
Some plastic trash at sea comes from the fishing industry. When fishing lines are
lost in the ocean, they don’t stop fishing, and can trap marine animals as they
circulate around the gyres. Here you see a shark and a large sea turtle trapped in
discarded fishing lines.
Slide 25: Turtle passing a plastic bag
Slide 26: Laysan Albatross
Here’s a Laysan Albatross feeding its chick. The adults will fly for thousands of
miles, looking on the ocean’s surface for food to bring back to their chicks. The
baby (on the left) is prompting its parent to feed it, by nuzzling its beak. This is a
signal to the parent to regurgitate.
Slide 27: Skeleton of an Albatross
This photo shows the stomach of a Laysan Albatross. They mistake our trash for
food, eat it, and feed it to their chicks through regurgitation. Consequently, the
chicks can sometimes starve, dehydrate, and/or suffer from internal blockages.
Slide 28: Stomach contents of an Albatross
•Birds eat the fish and they eat the floating plastic (bottle caps look like shrimp)
•Albatross live out in the ocean and skim the water for food
•They actually die of starvation and malnutrition because their bodies can’t
process the plastic they eat and they feel “full”
Slide 29: Stomach contents of a Whale, with 20 plastic bags
Slide 30: Seabird in plastic bag
1 trillion bags worldwide are used each year, how many must be floating around
in the ocean?. Sea birds can get caught in plastic bags. The bird has no way of
taking it off.
Slide 31: % of species impacted by plastic
Many different marine animals are hurt by our plastic trash. 43% of marine
mammals, 86% of sea turtle species, 44% of seabirds, and a growing list of fish.
Section Four: Plastics and Human Health
Slide 33: Plastic particles absorb pollutants
• Plastic pieces are like sponges for chemicals in the ocean like pesticides
and oil drops from your car. These chemicals don’t mix with water, but
they stick to plastic. Here you can see a plastic pellet turning brown with
pollutants after its been in the ocean for a while
• A single plastic pellet can have up to a million times higher concentration
of chemicals than the water around it.
Slide 34: Algalita’s 2008 Lantern Fish Study
•In 2008, the Algalita Marine Research Foundation found plastic particles in 35%
of the 671 Lantern fish they caught in the North Pacific Gyre. These are very
common fish, eaten by bigger fish that we eat - Tuna, Mahi Mahi, Squid.
•If these fish eat plastic particles contaminated with chemicals, do these
chemicals get into the tissues of fish, work their way up the food chain, and get
into our bodies?
Slide 36: Plastics and our bodies
• We mentioned earlier that plastic is made of oil, chemicals and dyes
• Well, some plastics actually leach the chemicals they are made of
(meaning they get into or onto whatever they touch)
• Bisphenol A (biss-fin-ol) is a plastic hardener found in things like DVDs,
the lining of canned food, baby bottles and some water bottles
• Phthlates (pronounced: tha’lates) is a plastic softener found in things like
kids toys, baby teething rings and cosmetics
• These chemicals have been shown to cause breast cancer, early
puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy.
*Pregnant women with high levels of phthalates delivered babies with a shorter
anogential distance (the distance between the anus and the genitals, the
shrinkage of which some scholars reflects “feminization” of male anatomy).
*Baby boys with shorter anogenital distance were also more likely to have
undescended testicles and less penile volume
*Phthalates have been linked in humans to problems with sperm count and
• Plastic containers don’t just leach the chemicals they are made of. Some
of the things we put IN our plastic containers already have these
chemicals in them
• For example, all of the products on this page have phthalates in them–
face wash, nail polish, hair dye, shave gel, perfume.
• The plastic chemicals do not just occur because of the plastic packaging,
they are actually added to the product
• Phthalates have been linked to breast cancer, early puberty in girls,
reduced testosterone levels, and lowered sperm
Recent study of 20 teens found 16 chemicals in their blood and urine samples,
including phthalates (plastics)
Boys, if you think you are safe, think again – men's cologne, shaving gel,
aftershave and shampoo have phthalates too.
Dr. Shanna Swan authored a study in 2005 in science journal Environmental
Health Perspectives that sent shock waves through the medical community.
Took urine samples of 134 pregnant women in 3 cities, LA; Minneapolis;
Columbia, Missouri and tested them for phthalate levels. Results showed a
correlation b/w those who had higher phthalate levels and their male children
which showed w/in 13 months of their birth a ‘reduced ano-genital distance” – i.e.
incomplete masculinazation; a key indicator in testosterone levels “Wherever
we’ve looked, human studies are consistent with rodent studies” she told CA
Senate Panel on BPA – linked to development of prostate and breast cancer
Netherlands, grown men asked to chew on pieces of plastic children’s toys then
tested their saliva and blood, concluding how easily phthalates pass into the
Denmark – high level of phthalates = low testosterone levels in male infants
World Wildlife Fund took blood samples from EU members of Parliament in
2004- detected phthalates in all 39 Ministers, one year later, voted to ban.
Harvard School of Public Health, 2003, correlation b/w phthalate levels and
sperm motility and concentration.
CDC’s ongoing assessment found phthalates in every single test subject, highest
in women and children.
By mimicking the body’s own hormones or lodging in fatty tissues, bio-
accumulative chemicals are generally not expelled through normal excretion
mechanisms of the human body, instead they accumulate inside the body,
releasing their toxins slowly, over time.
We are marinating in a chemical soup, chemicals are being tested on us, in a
Section FIVE: Solutions to plastic pollution
SO, we’ve overloaded you with frightening facts. But here’s the good news:
It’s really easy to make a difference.
• ATTEND local city council meetings- Its really important take the time
even once this year when needed to help with bag and bottle bans. This
is where the power of students come in!
• Vote with your dollar - stop purchasing items made out of single-use
Slide 40: Bring Your Own
Start by BRINGING YOUR OWN
• WATER BOTTLES (safer, cheaper, look cool) ecousable sells cheap
ones, we sell them too!
• BAG (for shopping, not just groceries, but clothes too); keep them in your
car or bike basked: chico bags fold up and fit anywhere like your purse
• MUG or CUP for coffee shop (they’ll usually give you a discount)
restaurants for soda too
• TUPPERWARE or TIFFIN for leftovers or lunches instead to go boxes
• SILVERWARE (we make and sell our own fork and spoon pouches and
you can use what you’ve got at home) this is a bamboo set
• KEEP a jar in your car with silverwear –use it for a cup and you’ve got
what you need for a party)
Slide 41: Bioplastics
Polylactic acid (PLA) is a plastic substitute made from fermented plant starch -
PLA can “BIODEGRADE” into carbon dioxide and water within 3 months in an
INDUSTRIAL COMPOSTING facility (heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and fed
a steady diet of digestive microbes); there are currently just over 100 facilities in
Estimated that it could take anywhere from 100 to 1,000 years to decompose in a
landfill (According a Smithsonian study)
PHA is another form of bioplastic, made by bacteria. PHA is marine degradable –
it will break down in the ocean.
Slide 42: The 4 Rs
SO, what can we do?
•Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle in that order (recycling isn’t good enough,
we need to stop using plastic in the first place)
Refuse plastic and rethink design without plastic (why do we need ALL that
Slide 43: Extended Producer Responsibility
Slide 44: Spread the word
Now that you’ve heard about the problem, you can be a part of the solution. Take
this message back to your school and your family. Make your community zero
waste. Lets stop the flow of throwaway plastics that end up in our oceans.
So we’ve taught you this presentation on line. Now its your turn. Find a group of
friends, download the script, add some photos of plastic in your community, and
help us spread the word! Lets all help Captain Moore realize his dream to find the
solution to plastic pollution. Good luck!