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building a movement to end plastic pollution

The coronavirus pandemic has changed all of our lives but social distancing does not mean you have to stop learning nor stop advocating to protect our environment and health by reducing plastic pollution!

To help you make the most of this time of necessary social distancing, we’ve devised a film series that you can watch from the comfort and safety of your own home. We’ve chosen five excellent films focusing on various aspects of our plastic pollution crisis and ways we can help solve it.

We hope you enjoy these films and encourage you to share them with anyone you think would be interested.

Suitable for highschool students and up, 55 minutes long

Plastic Wars from FRONTLINE and NPR

FRONTLINE and NPR team up to examine a mounting crisis: plastic waste in the environment. Despite efforts spreading across the country to reduce the use of plastic, the plastics industry is rapidly scaling up new production and promoting a familiar solution: recycling. But it’s estimated that no more than 10 percent of plastic produced has ever been recycled. Plastic Wars, a joint investigation from FRONTLINE and NPR, reveals how plastic makers have publicly promoted recycling for decades, despite privately expressing doubts that widespread plastic recycling would ever be economically viable.

How To Watch

Stream online via

Watch the Trailer

Suitable for all ages and a great choice for families and people who care about environmental education, 1 hour and 16 minutes long.

Microplastic Madness film poster by Cafeteria Culture.

Microplastic Madness  is the story of 56 fifth graders from P.S. 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn – living on the frontline of the climate crisis – whose actions on plastic pollution morph into extraordinary leadership and scalable victories. With stop-motion animation, heartfelt kid commentary, and interviews of experts and renowned scientists who are engaged in the most cutting edge research on the harmful effects of microplastics, this alarming, yet charming narrative, conveys an urgent message in user-friendly terms. These eleven-year-olds dive deep into the root causes of plastic pollution.  Taking on the roles of citizen scientists and community advocates, they collect local data, lead community outreach, and use their own local data to inform policy by testifying and rallying at City Hall. Then they turned their focus back to school, taking action in their cafeteria to eliminate all single-use plastic! Created to inspire kids, teachers and policy makers alike, this is the spark needed to grow a youth-led Plastic Free Future movement in schools across NYC and beyond!

How To Watch
If you missed the April 4th Zoom screening, don’t despair. You can consider hosting your own screening, and check back here for information on future screenings.

Watch the Trailer


If you are interested in Cafeteria Culture’s free Microplastic Madness curriculum for a plastic free future for grades 4 and up, please sign up here. You can also sign up here if you are a teacher looking for Remote Learning resources, which will soon be ready to share.

We urge you to support the important work of Cafeteria Culture – a wonderful organization we love to collaborate with. Donate here to help them expand screening opportunities for Microplastic Madness.

STRAWS Film poster

Suitable for 6th grade and up, 32 minutes long.

STRAWS is a short documentary by filmmaker Linda Booker released Spring 2017. Half a billion non-recyclable plastic straws get used every day in the U.S., ending up in landfills and on streets and beaches. Academy Award-winning actor Tim Robbins narrates and turtle researchers, community activists and business owners discuss a sea of change happening, one straw at a time. 


If you are a teacher or a student, you can sign up to watch STRAWS and three other short films for free along with the option of signing up for an online discussion with Jackie Nuñez, Founder & Program Manager, The Last Plastic Straw, and featured in the short documentary STRAWS, along with other Plastic Pollution Coalition staff. There are many times available to teachers and students for this special virtual viewing engagement offer during the month of April – sign up for one that works for you here.

And, if you are not an educator or student, you can rent STRAWS for 2.99 or buy it for $4.99 and watch anytime that works for you!


Suitable for highschool students and up, 1 hour and 35 minutes long.

The Story of Plastic film poster

The Story of Plastic is a seething expose uncovering the ugly truth behind the current global plastic pollution crisis. Striking footage shot over three continents illustrates the ongoing catastrophe: fields full of garbage, veritable mountains of trash; rivers and seas clogged with waste; and skies choked with the poisonous runoff from plastic production and recycling processes with no end in sight. Original animations, interviews with experts and activists, and never-before-filmed scenes reveal the disastrous consequences of the flood of plastic smothering ecosystems and poisoning communities around the world – and the global movement rising up in response.

How to Watch
Tune in to watch or stream on Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, 2020 on the Discovery Channel (exact timing TBA soon) or stream via Discovery Go after April 22nd.

Watch the Trailer 

Bonus! Check out these related short videos from the Story of Stuff Project.

  • The Story of Stuff (click here for the Spanish version) – The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.
  • The Story of Bottled Water – The Story of Bottled Water tells the story of manufactured demand—how you get Americans to buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week when it already flows virtually free from the tap. Over five minutes, the film explores the bottled water industry’s attacks on tap water and its use of seductive, environmental-themed advertising to cover up the mountains of plastic waste it produces. The film concludes with a call for viewers to make a personal commitment to avoid bottled water and support public investment in clean, available tap water for all.
  • The Story of Microbeads – This 2-minute short takes on plastic microbeads—the nasty little bits of plastic that companies have been putting in everything from body washes and hand soaps to toothpaste and make up. In it, we show how microbeads are actually designed to go down the drain and into our rivers, lakes, and oceans…and what folks like us can do to stop this ridiculous assault on our public waters.
  • The Story of Microfibers – Most of us wear synthetic fabrics like polyester every day. Our dress shirts, yoga pants, fleeces, and even underwear are all increasingly made of synthetic materials — plastic, in fact. But these synthetic fabrics, from which 60% of all clothing on earth is made, have a big hidden problem: when they’re washed, they release tiny plastic bits — called microfibers — that flow down our drains, through water treatment plants, and out into our rivers, lakes and oceans by the billions. This 2-minute short explains it all.

Suitable for all ages, 1 hour 18 minutes long.

Bag It, a movie about our crazy-for-plastic world.

Americans use 60,000 plastic bags every five minutes-single-use disposable bags that we mindlessly throw away. But where is “away?” Where do the bags and other plastics end up, and at what cost to our environment, marine life and human health? Bag It follows “everyman” Jeb Berrier as he navigates our plastic world. Jeb is not a radical environmentalist, but an average American who decides to take a closer look at our cultural love affair with plastics. Jeb’s journey in this documentary film starts with simple questions: Are plastic bags really necessary? What are plastic bags made from? What happens to plastic bags after they are discarded? Jeb looks beyond plastic bags and discovers that virtually everything in modern society-from baby bottles, to sports equipment, to dental sealants, to personal care products-is made with plastic or contains potentially harmful chemical additives used in the plastic-making process. When Jeb’s journey takes a personal twist, we see how our crazy-for-plastic world has finally caught up with us and what we can do about it. Today. Right now.

Watch the Trailer

How to Watch
Stream via Amazon or Itunes or stream for free via Kanopy using your public library card.

Curriculum Packet for lessons and classroom activities that meet national education standards for students in grades 4-12, and correlate with chapters within Bag It’s Educational DVD. Chapters and lesson plans focus on Single-Use Disposables; Waste and Recycling; Oceans; Human Health; and Activism. More resources available here.

Suitable for highschool students and up, 1 hour and 42 minutes long.

Gasland, a film by Josh Fox.

The Halliburton-developed drilling technology of “fracking” or hydraulic fracturing has unlocked a “Saudia Arabia of natural gas” just beneath us. But is fracking safe? When filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination. A recently drilled nearby Pennsylvania town reports that residents are able to light their drinking water on fire. This is just one of the many absurd and astonishing revelations of a new country called GASLAND. Part verite travelogue, part expose, part mystery, part bluegrass banjo meltdown, part showdown.

In case you’re wondering why we’re including a movie about fracking, it’s because the vast majority of plastic made in America is now made from a byproduct of fracking (plus chemicals). In fact, the ever-increasing sale of plastics is the oil and gas industry’s plan for how to make up for falling revenues as the demand for fracked gas falls. Plastics and fracking are inextricably linked!

How to Watch
Stream it free via Films for Action or rent it for $3.99 or buy it on iTunes or Amazon

Watch the Trailer

Check out this Gasland study guide from the TRIBECA Film Institute


  • Enjoy some treats while you watch. Rather than using microwaveable popcorn in a single-use plastic-lined bag, try making delicious popcorn in a lidded pot on your stove top using 2 tablespoons of olive, coconut, or avocado oil to every half cup of corn kernels – it’s lots of fun for kids! You may also wish to invest in an old fashioned air popper (our favorite – also fun for the kids!) and toss the popped corn with some melted butter or oil, salt and spices of your choice. 

  • Watch with your family if the film will be suitable for them. Microplastic Madness is a great choice if you have younger kids as it’s a movie everyone can enjoy and is very inspiring and hopeful. 

  • If you’re feeling ambitious, consider inviting other friends, family, or classmates to join you in watching at the same time (from the socially safe distance of their own homes, obviously!) and schedule a conference call, Zoom meeting or googlehangout to discuss it afterwards. 

  • Make use of any and all resources – several of these films have great curriculum packets and discussion guides available. In this time of social distancing, these can be a good resource for a meaningful and engaging curriculum.

  • Please share this virtual film series widely, particularly with teachers and students you know. Share via Twitter | Share via Facebook
  • Join our email list! We are committed to sharing ways you can help reduce plastic pollution. Sign up here right now.

  • Follow us on social media and join the conversation. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


We are already planning Round Two of the Virtual Plastic Pollution Film Series! If you would like to nominate a film for inclusion (your own or someone else’s), please share the details with us here. Thanks in advance for the tip!

Special thanks to our media sponsor, KPFK!