Videos – Microplastics and Waterways

Topic Key

Biological Consequences

Marine Debris Concepts


Sources of Marine Debris

Strategies for Mitigation

A Brief History of Plastic

"For centuries, billiard balls were made of ivory from elephant tusks. But when excessive hunting caused elephant populations to decline, they began to look for alternatives. John Wesley Hyatt took up the challenge. In five years, he invented a new material called celluloid, which would become known as the first plastic. Trace the history of the material that ushered in the 'plastics century.'"

Run time: 6 minutes

Source: TED-Ed

Are Microplastics a Macroproblem?

"Although trash heaps are easier to spot in waterways, microplastics—pieces of plastic smaller than five millimeters—have started to stir more concern. Acting as sponges, the pieces soak up the chemicals around them and often make their way through the food chain, ending up on dinner plates. Most microplastics are created over time from larger pieces or directly from microbeads in products like face washes or toothpaste."

Run time: 3 minutes

Source: National Geographic

How to Cleanse Your Beauty Regime

"Every year five million to 14 million tons of plastic flow into the oceans from coastal areas. And every time you brush your teeth, wash your face, or take a shower, you could be sending more microplastics down the drain."

This video offers some ways that consumers can limit their use of microplastics by making informed and responsible purchases.

Run time: 3 minutes

Source: National Geographic

The Life Cycle of a Plastic Bottle

"We’ve all been told that we should recycle plastic bottles and containers. But what actually happens to the plastic if we just throw it away? Emma Bryce traces the life cycles of three different plastic bottles, shedding light on the dangers these disposables present to our world."

Run time: 4 minutes

To view the full TED-Ed lesson, click here.

Microplastics in the Baltic

"The Microplastics in the Baltic project is assessing the impact of plastic in biodiversity, climate change and human health in the Baltic region. IUCN is leading the first worldwide project to study the possible impacts of plastic in ice formation and melting. We will understand if plastic has any impact in sea ice formation, how much plastic is actually “scavenged” from the water and incorporated in ice and if plastic (at high concentrations) can play a role in ice melting."

Run time: 6 minutes

Source: IUCN

NOAA Ocean Podcast: Microplastics

"Connect with ocean experts and explore topics from corals to coastal science with our audio podcast." This episode focuses on microplastics.

Run time: 16 minutes

To explore other NOAA podcast episodes, click here.

NOAA Ocean Podcast: Nurdle Patrol

"Nurdles are small plastic pellets that are causing a big problem. But citizen scientists are fighting back. In this episode, we talk with Jace Tunnell, Director of the Mission Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve, about how the Nurdle Patrol is taking on these problematic pellets, and how you can get involved."

Run time: 12 minutes

To explore other NOAA podcast episodes, click here.

Nurdles' Quest for Ocean Domination

"Nurdles are the tiny, factory-made pellets that form the raw material for every plastic product that we use, from toys to toothbrushes. And while they look pretty harmless on land, they can really wreak havoc on our oceans. Kim Preshoff details the nurdles' quest for ocean domination, shedding light on the particular features that allow these pervasive polluters to persist for entire generations."

Run time: 5 minutes

To view the full TED-Ed lesson, click here.

Plastic Eating Enzyme

"Scientists Accidentally Discovered A Plastic Eating Enzyme That Could Revolutionize Recycling: An international team of scientists have accidentally enhanced a plastic eating enzyme in a discovery that could change our relationship with plastic forever. The breakthrough, if scaled up, could lead to plastic being broken down into its original components and formed into plastic items again, removing the need for making more of the material."

Run time: 3 minutes

Source: VICE News

Plastic Pollution

"Modern life would be impossible without plastic – but we have long since lost control over our invention. Why has plastic turned into a problem and what do we know about its dangers?... 51 Trillion particles of microplastics float in our oceans. Yet there is very little science of how this affects our health. This video shows why we should gain back control over plastic in our lives."

Run time: 9 minutes

Source: Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell

The Smog of the Sea (Trailer)

"After years of hearing about the famous “garbage patches” in the ocean’s gyres, the crew is stunned to learn that the patches are a myth: the waters stretching to the horizon are clear blue, with no islands of trash in sight. But as the crew sieves the water and sorts through their haul, a more disturbing reality sets in: a fog of microplastics permeates the world’s oceans..."

Run time: 3 minutes

Source: The Smog of the Sea

The Story of Microbeads

"This 2-minute "explainer" shows how tiny plastic microbeads are designed to go down the drain and into our rivers, lakes, and oceans and we can do to stop this ridiculous assault on our public waters."

Run time: 2 minutes

Source: The Story of Stuff Project

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."

Run time: 3 minutes

Source: The Story of Stuff Project

What are Microplastics?

"Plastic is the most prevalent type of marine debris found in our ocean and Great Lakes. Plastic debris can come in all shapes and sizes, but those that are less than five millimeters in length (or about the size of a sesame seed) are called 'microplastics.'"

Run time: 1 minute

Source: National Ocean Service