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 cleanseas.org and make your pledge.

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

  • February 8, 2019 at 1:49 pm
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    There's brand new stuff in the Kurzgesagt Merch Shop. Check it out here: shop.kurzgesagt.org

    Reply
  • August 6, 2019 at 5:59 pm
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    Kurzgesagt: How Humans are Turning the World into PLASTIC
    Mariya Takeuchi: Hold my beer

    Reply
  • August 6, 2019 at 11:12 pm
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    watching this while drinking and eating out of and with plastic

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  • August 7, 2019 at 3:37 am
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    Didn't see where the cotton bag vs plastic bag figure was cited? I would love to know!

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  • August 7, 2019 at 5:08 pm
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    We should definitely do our best to contribute to cleaning up our oceans. We can do our parts!

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  • August 7, 2019 at 9:26 pm
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    I watched a Plastic Pollution ad before this video

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  • August 8, 2019 at 10:07 am
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    Always infuriated me how people are so lazy to put their rubbish in the bin

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  • August 8, 2019 at 7:37 pm
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    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

    Reply
  • August 9, 2019 at 2:43 am
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    Nooooooooooooo we need to save the fish

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  • August 9, 2019 at 2:44 am
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    Goddamn it just stop using plastic

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  • August 9, 2019 at 2:45 am
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    Make a reusable plastic bag

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  • August 9, 2019 at 10:54 am
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    Мы не окажемся в "таком мире", мы уже тут…

    Reply
  • August 9, 2019 at 12:02 pm
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    1970 : In future we will have a flying card
    2019 : PLASTIC ATTACK

    Reply
  • August 10, 2019 at 1:44 am
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    8:23 The circle of life.

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  • August 10, 2019 at 6:18 am
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    Is this true…?

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  • August 10, 2019 at 9:56 am
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    What do those Chinese characters say on the ship? On 7:54

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  • August 10, 2019 at 1:26 pm
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    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

    Reply
  • August 11, 2019 at 9:39 am
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    I wish we can threw trash we don’t need into the forest and the sea and then suddenly it evaporates into nothing

    Reply
  • August 11, 2019 at 10:42 am
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    2:56 who the hell came up with that brilliant idea?

    Reply
  • August 11, 2019 at 1:56 pm
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    Love your videos! Even my 5 year old daughter enjoys watching them.

    Reply
  • August 11, 2019 at 4:55 pm
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    Why don't put plastic in lava?

    Reply
  • August 12, 2019 at 2:05 am
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    Recycling removes a block of plastic in seas and landfills a week. Recycling removes Plastic block by block.

    Reply
  • August 12, 2019 at 9:07 am
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    Mightus have asses ear

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  • August 12, 2019 at 3:25 pm
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    Burn the plastic u use its fuel and helping

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  • August 12, 2019 at 3:32 pm
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    We are doomed

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  • August 12, 2019 at 6:25 pm
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    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.

    Reply
  • August 12, 2019 at 9:00 pm
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    “Or to wrap a banana”

    Reply
  • August 13, 2019 at 12:40 am
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    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

    Reply
  • August 13, 2019 at 6:56 am
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    7:44 on the cargo ship it says “垃圾”, which means rubbish in chinese

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  • August 13, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    f u r b y

    Reply
  • August 13, 2019 at 11:11 am
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    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

    Reply
  • August 13, 2019 at 12:45 pm
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    Humans need to go extinct. This planet does not need us.

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  • August 13, 2019 at 8:34 pm
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    stop to use plastic for everything! expecially for bags

    Reply
  • August 14, 2019 at 2:30 am
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    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

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  • August 14, 2019 at 8:59 am
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    please do a video on plastic ecobricking: a solution to plastic consumption !!!

    Reply
  • August 14, 2019 at 9:47 am
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    Even Humans are turning other humans into Plastic. (if you get what I mean)

    Reply
  • August 14, 2019 at 2:36 pm
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    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.

    Reply
  • August 14, 2019 at 7:36 pm
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    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

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  • August 15, 2019 at 1:01 am
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    You cant save the world

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  • August 15, 2019 at 1:22 am
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    Why don’t those stupid fish/birds stop eating plastic then? Sounds like survival of the fittest to me.

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  • August 15, 2019 at 9:46 am
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    lets all admit here. overpopulation is the real problem.

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  • August 15, 2019 at 11:31 am
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    why God wants us to live? why God why?

    Reply
  • August 15, 2019 at 1:08 pm
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    Nice

    Reply
  • August 15, 2019 at 7:35 pm
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    "….and a drum." That me lmfao

    Reply
  • August 16, 2019 at 1:48 am
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    It all starts with HUMAN GREED.

    Reply
  • August 16, 2019 at 5:19 pm
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    How about plastic – digesting Bacteria? Maybe one mutation will change the world some time and they will use a highly available energy resource…

    Reply
  • August 16, 2019 at 6:05 pm
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    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.

    Reply
  • August 16, 2019 at 10:26 pm
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    We are really stupid

    Reply
  • August 17, 2019 at 3:21 am
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    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.

    Reply
  • August 17, 2019 at 2:32 pm
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    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.

    Reply
  • August 18, 2019 at 2:43 am
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    We need plastic that decomposes safely…

    Reply
  • August 18, 2019 at 9:28 am
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    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?

    Reply
  • August 18, 2019 at 9:41 am
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    I feel like kurzgesagt might have something against furbies 🤔

    Reply
  • August 18, 2019 at 10:23 am
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    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

    Reply
  • August 18, 2019 at 11:45 am
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    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…

    Reply
  • August 19, 2019 at 7:15 am
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    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.
    ASIA HAVE BEEN QUIETLY POISONING OUR OCEANS FOR DECADES!

    Reply
  • August 19, 2019 at 8:32 am
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    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 🙏

    Reply
  • August 19, 2019 at 12:29 pm
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    So we’re basically stuck in this until we die because of it.

    Reply
  • August 19, 2019 at 4:24 pm
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    Nature must take revenge

    Reply
  • August 19, 2019 at 4:25 pm
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    Just use it for something

    Reply
  • August 19, 2019 at 9:39 pm
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    Global warming, plastic polution, nuclear warheads, asteroids, over population….. Dumb ways to die, so many dumb ways to die.

    Reply
  • August 20, 2019 at 10:26 am
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    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.

    Reply
  • August 20, 2019 at 11:48 am
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    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?

    Reply
  • August 20, 2019 at 12:36 pm
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    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.

    Reply
  • August 20, 2019 at 2:06 pm
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    Littering is a shameful thing to do

    Like if u don't

    Reply
  • August 21, 2019 at 6:21 am
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    What a lame advertisement for selling the Paris Agreement (aka globalism).

    Reply
  • August 21, 2019 at 6:22 am
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    How many people complaining, smoke cigarettes? Those cigarette filters are always laying around. People who smoke certainly shouldn’t talk about unnecessary waste.

    Reply
  • August 21, 2019 at 1:15 pm
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    Human Beings: The Great Filter is behind us!
    Plastics: I'ma 'bout to end these beings' whole lives!

    Reply
  • August 22, 2019 at 12:01 am
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    4:50 Why do THEY always begin to worry AFTER it happens?

    Reply
  • August 22, 2019 at 3:26 pm
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    8:23 DIE FUCKING WOMAN OF FUCKING SHIT, I WANT TO HAVE SEX AND THOSE STUPID PLASTIC CHEMICS ARE INTERVIEWING WITH MY TESTOSTERONE OR WHATEVER, FUCK THAT!!!! FUUUUUCK YOU!!! IDIODT, DIIOTOD, DIIOT.

    Reply
  • August 23, 2019 at 5:10 am
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    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.

    Reply
  • August 23, 2019 at 1:23 pm
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    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.

    Reply
  • August 24, 2019 at 1:12 am
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    "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 👏)

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  • August 24, 2019 at 1:15 am
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    Who else thinks that the animal thing that represents the plastic power looks a bit like a furby?

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  • August 24, 2019 at 1:36 am
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    No plastic whatever in the world

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  • August 24, 2019 at 1:41 am
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    I hate plastic forever I am telling the truth

    Reply
  • August 24, 2019 at 1:44 am
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    We need to ban plastic and keep the world a good world and a tidy world no littering forever in our life

    Reply
  • August 24, 2019 at 6:16 am
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    But why would i convince others to not use plastic stuff if non-plastic stuff seems like it's somehow worse and less efficient?

    Reply
  • August 24, 2019 at 10:09 am
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    Everyones so concerned about being offended these days….leave your feelings at home, because our "home" we call Earth, is going down the toilet

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  • August 24, 2019 at 12:12 pm
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    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!!!

    Reply
  • August 24, 2019 at 1:36 pm
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    We need to build a giant rocket and fly it to space with the thrash and plastic

    Reply
  • August 24, 2019 at 2:34 pm
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    Even I am using phone that made of plastic to watch this video

    Reply
  • August 24, 2019 at 3:10 pm
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    1.9 k people, like plastic pollution :'c

    Reply
  • August 25, 2019 at 3:10 am
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    But all politicians care about is themselves

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  • August 26, 2019 at 4:50 am
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    /r/unnecessaryplastic

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  • August 26, 2019 at 5:29 pm
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    Lol. All of the factories in China produce for America and Europe. Culprit is America and Europe. Not Indonesia or India.

    Reply
  • August 27, 2019 at 12:09 am
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    UN: ok this button will ban oil and anything tat will destroy the environment
    Everyone:YAY!
    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

    Reply
  • August 27, 2019 at 3:02 am
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    Amazing as usual, and on a very serious topic.

    Reply
  • August 27, 2019 at 4:24 am
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    Plastic can be converted into fuel. In 2016 a Nigerian invented a machine that does this, using the principles of pyrolysis.

    Reply
  • August 27, 2019 at 10:27 pm
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    wow 136 years of weekly shopping to make less then a plastic bag

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  • August 28, 2019 at 12:17 pm
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    Its awesome

    Reply
  • August 29, 2019 at 6:45 am
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    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.

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  • August 29, 2019 at 1:45 pm
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    No one
    Nobody
    Not asingle soul
    Not even the words
    Humans:i will save the earth
    drops plastic bag by accident

    Reply
  • August 29, 2019 at 8:29 pm
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    Aren't there biodegradable plastics now?

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  • August 30, 2019 at 1:43 am
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    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

    Reply
  • August 30, 2019 at 2:18 am
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    Plzz stop use of plastic it's a alarm 4 us

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  • August 30, 2019 at 3:35 am
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    1:02 subtitles [Catchy intro music]

    Reply
  • August 30, 2019 at 8:08 am
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    Wah, ada Indonesia!!!

    Ups… sisi jeleknya tapi :v

    Reply
  • August 30, 2019 at 9:47 am
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    See, this is why we need another meteor.

    Reply

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