A Plastic Ocean (2016) Script

[Craig] I remember the first time I saw a picture of a blue whale, which was in a National Geographic magazine.

A drawing of the whale, and then a tiny human standing beside it.

This thing was bigger than any dinosaur.

And as an eight-year-old, I couldn't imagine that there was anything that big.

I've followed them since childhood with the absolute design to go and film them myself at some point.

And that was 40 years later.

Never had a slate before...

[Craig] Dr. Lindsay Porter is a cetacean expert.

And Ben Fogle is a U.K. adventurer.

So, Lindsay, just tell me, what kind of whales in particular are we looking for?

Today, we're looking for the blue whale.

There are two different types of blue whale we'll see in the area, the true blues and pygmy blues. And how do they differ?

Pygmy blues are slightly smaller than true blue whales.

When you say "slightly smaller," what size are we talking about here?

Twenty-five meters. [chuckles]

[Craig] Lindsay has such a depth of knowledge that she's my first go-to when I've got a question about a whale.

So, as the currents and the waves come in, they create this very productive front, and this is why we think the animals... the whales, feed here.

So, when you say "productive front,"

I imagine krill, food, is being welled up...

[Craig] Ben Fogle rowed a boat across the Atlantic.

And that meant that he had a sense of adventure.

He was a risk-taker.

From the very first day we saw them blowing, we knew they were there, but they were very hard to reach.

[Lindsay] And fluke up. Oh, nice.

[Craig] These animals can do up to 30 kilometers an hour underwater, and they can stay underwater for a half an hour and go in any direction.

When we saw them, we'd follow them, try to get near them, wait for them to come up again, and then just never see them again.

[Craig] Tell me what I should be listening out for.

For whales, you need to listen for a low-frequency monotone.

And for dolphins...

Oh, can you hear it right there? That? [dolphin whistles]

[Lindsay] The whistles? [Craig] The high-pitched whistles?

The high-pitched whistling. That's dolphins.

That's the group of dolphins we just passed.

How far do you think they are? They'll still be within a kilometer.

That's a long way to go. It's a long way. It's a big ocean.

They've got to talk to each other over distance.

That's incredible.

[Craig] We traveled up and down, 50 miles off the coast for two weeks trying to get close to these animals.

We ran out of time. We started heading back to port...

Oh, look, look. [Lindsay] At two o'clock... another blow. Four.

And it looks like he's going to fluke up... and dive.

So, he'll probably be down for another ten minutes or so.

Whoosh!

[Craig] They look like freight trains, like enormous spaceships that just travel effortlessly.

Every piece of them looked like something I'd seen on a... reengineered on an aircraft or on a supercar.

When they fluke, they arch like that.

Their tail comes up vertically and drops straight in the water, and you can barely hear a sound.

[Craig] Wow, look at that! [laughs] Wow!

That is just beautiful!

[whistles]

[Craig] It's the first time that we believe that anyone has ever filmed a juvenile pygmy blue whale underwater.


[Craig] What do you think it's from, Alex? Is it from a ship?

No, it came from a river.

[Craig] We were in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Sri Lanka, where there hasn't been any commercial fishing because of the civil war.

The beaches have been closed for up to 30 years.

We thought this was a relatively pristine environment.

[man] Floating on the surface and a meter below was just this horrible, crappy, emulsified mess of oil and bits of, you know...

It's horrible, and looking through it, you could see the tendrils of the net hanging down.

That was certainly one of the most unpleasant dives I've ever done.


[woman] I spent my childhood in the sea.

Growing up in Grand Cayman, we didn't have organized sports after school.

We didn't even have a TV until I was 13, so the sea was my playground.

As a free-diver, it was the place where...

I proved myself to myself by traveling to the absolute edge of myself.

[inhales]

[exhales]

[Tanya] I need to put as much oxygen in my blood as possible so that I can hold my breath for the three-and-a-half to four minutes that the dive is gonna take me.

[inhales air]

[Tanya] Five-hundred and twenty-five feet is beyond the crushing depth of Second World War submarines.

In pushing so hard, I learned about limits.

I've got a fiery redhead, and she redefines my limits every day.

[audience laughing]

Finally for me, it feels like there's a point to this bizarre gift I have of "looking pretty and holding my breath."

I have the opportunity to pay the sea back... but I'm learning on my feet.

I didn't know that in the last ten years, we've made more plastic than we did in the century before that.

Half of those plastic products are considered "disposable."

But think about it.

How can a disposable product be made of a material that's indestructible?

Where does it go?

[indistinct chatters]

[Tanya] This is a Bryde's whale. It's dying, taking its final breaths.

[woman] Oh, my God.

[Tanya] It was found to have six square meters of plastic sheeting inside it.

It couldn't eat and it died of malnourishment.

Its digestive system was blocked and it died a terrible, painful death.

That's got a hole in it.

This is all some of the rubbish that we found in the floating jetsam and flotsam in the ocean.

We'll get Ben to go through it, but there's even a pack of unopened biscuits.

You can see it's been there for some time, the mollusks that are growing off it.

There's crabs. There's a crab in there, have a look.

So, quite extraordinary.

[man 1] Another one. [man 2] Another one. Down here.

[Craig] The detritus that's built up in these areas where they don't have the benefit of getting rid of the rubbish.

Well, we're about 20 miles offshore.

It's been trapped in the river mouth and now it's all flushed out into sea.

This is one of the main areas where we're hunting for the blue whales to film, so this is right in their environment.

They feed by opening their mouth and just sucking up whatever's in their path.

They take in hundreds of gallons of water, they express that water, and they feed off the krill and tiny fish.

But they can't tell the difference between krill and plastic.

Disposable lighters.

Just... you know, this is never gonna degrade.

These are gonna be floating there for... a very long time.

They'll break down to very small particles, and that's if some large marine mammal doesn't come along and swallow them whole.

It's got nowhere to go. This is where it lives now.

Well, to contrast that area of affected ocean by those plastics with the virgin blue water that you find very close by, well, there's just no comparison.

The animals of the world deserve the blue ocean, not that sort of shit.

[Craig] I started to wonder what's happening in oceans elsewhere on the planet.


[Tanya] Sixty-three billion gallons of oil are used every year just to supply the U.S. with plastic water bottles.

The U.S. alone throws away 38 billion bottles every year.

That's two million tons of plastic going into U.S. landfills, and that's only from water bottles.

In this year alone, every single person on the planet will use and dispose about 300 pounds or 136 kilos, of single-use plastic.

[Craig] Plastic is wonderful because it's durable and plastic is terrible because it is durable.

Almost every piece of plastic ever made is still on the planet in some form or another.

Plastic production globally this year is expected to be more than 300 million tons.

Half of which we'll use just once and then throw away.

By 2050, when the population explodes to almost ten billion people, it's expected that plastic production will triple.

The problem with that is... is that today, only a fraction of the plastic that we produce is recycled.

The rest ends up in our environment and it's coating our land and our oceans like a disease.

[Craig] Tasmania smells like freshness. It smells like salt spray.

Primitive. It just smells natural.

It has the cleanest air and water measured anywhere on the planet.

The ocean to me, is my church, it's my temple, it's my synagogue, it's my mosque.

It's where I feel the most spiritual.

It's where I go to work, where I go for my enjoyment, and where I go to think.

And it's also the environment that challenges me more than any other environment that I know.

Growing up, my world was... exploring the rock pools... tiny little fish that I could catch and study and release a day later.

My mother was very caring and very supportive of anything that we wanted to do.

And she picked up very early on, I think, my fascination with wildlife.

I'm fourth-generation journalist.

It's believed he's heading to Moscow.

We're on a truck taking rice down to Santa Fe.

Okay, it's not live, is it? Hang on, wait, wait! Whoa!

Further outside Katmandu you travel the worse it seems the damage becomes.

Small villages like this one, Sankhu stood no chance against the moving earth.

These rescue teams have been unable to access inside this city.

[Craig] The town that I grew up in was an industrial town.

I remember coming out after training from the surf lifesaving club, where I was a member, with just stinging red eyes.

So, when I worked for the newspaper, I wanted to investigate what was causing that.

We started doing testing on the water in Emu Bay and what we found was that there were these heavy amounts of organochlorines and these contain dioxins which are cancer-causing agents.

[helicopter whirs] I put this to the government of Tasmania and they admitted for the first time that these dioxins existed, and that they were dangerous.

Within ten years, all of those industries had closed, and today the fish are back in the water.

The water is blue again, and it's a very beautiful city.

We think that when we put something in the trash or when we just toss it from a boat or on a beach, that it "goes away."

Ah! [stammers] We're now free of the plastic.

[Tanya] Over 80 percent of ocean plastic leaks from land-based sources.

Even if you don't live near the ocean, chances are your plastic garbage has found its way to the sea.

The Great Lakes in North America are a good example.

Eighty percent of the litter along the shorelines of these majestic lakes is plastic.

What trash doesn't remain on the shoreline or sink into the lake sediment flows through the canals and river system through the St. Lawrence Seaway and into the Atlantic Ocean.

These great lakes are just one example.

This level of plastic debris is found all around the world.

Thousands of years of agriculture and industry have made the Med one of the most polluted bodies of water on the planet.

About eight million tons of plastic is dumped into the world's oceans every year.

More than 50 percent of marine debris, including plastic, sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

Ahoy! Hello, Mike!

Hey, Popov. Welcome aboard.

Good to see you. Yeah.

[Tanya] I met up with filmmaker, Mike deGruy, a marine biologist and also an experienced submersible pilot.

[Tanya] It'll be interesting to see just how far-reaching it really is.

To be this far offshore and see whether the plastic that we know is coming from that direction is winding up out in the depths out here, right?

I'm really looking forward to, of course diving the sub in the Med, a place that has more fishing impact than most bodies of water on the planet.

[squeaks]

[speaks in French]

Hey, Mike, it's Tanya. Can you tell me what you're seeing down there?

[Mike] You turn the light on, and you're descending through these particles.

Well, welcome to the bottom of the ocean, Tanya.

[Mike] I wish you were down here watching this operation.

If you weren't hogging the sub, I would be down there.

[submarine whirs]

So, we're just under five meters now.

Almost 1200... About 1200 feet.

And a plastic bottle. You see a plastic bottle. Exactly.

We're now starting to see more and more plastic.

More and more tires and pieces of metal, and just absolutely disregard for the bottom, really.

It's just junk everywhere.

Fishing line is a really dangerous thing to see in a submarine.

You can get entangled in it and stuck to the bottom. Not a good thing.

Tanya, this is Remora.

We are right in front of a pretty good-sized bundle of plastic.

Is there any chance that you can grab some of it with the manipulator?

[Mike] That's exactly what we're going to do.

[Tanya] It looks like a lift bag. Could it be a lift bag?

It's a what?

[men speaking in French]

[Tanya] We saw unexploded bombs, old parachutes, and plenty of plastic rubbish.

[machine whirs]

Our scientists commissioned a small, remotely-operated vehicle to travel over a mile and a half down to the deep trenches.

The ROV is coming down.

[Popov] There they are. [Mike] Which is kind of cool.


[Tanya] Here, where the daylight never reaches, the eddies and currents have collected scores of plastic bottles.

This plastic could remain here forever.


You go down, you know, 350, 375 meters, hit bottom, start moving around, and immediately start seeing trash.

Plastic? Plastic.

Where in the world can you go anymore and not find plastic?

[Tanya] Our oceans are driven by five major circular currents, or "gyres."

These are created by the earth's rotation and the resulting predominant winds.

Each continent is affected by these massive systems.

They collect waste flowing from our rivers and coastlines, and over time, anything floating within the gyre will eventually move towards the center of the gyre.

[Craig] Our producer, Jo Ruxton, was familiar with the story about a huge, floating island of garbage twice the size of Texas in the North Pacific.

Jo joined Dr. Andrea Neal and her team on an expedition to this Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

So, we're deploying the manta trawl, and we're going to look for fine particulates and debris.

This mesh here is 333 microns, which is in the size range of zooplankton.

[Craig] The manta trawl captures material on the surface.

It will take anything the size of a pinhead or larger.

Looking out over the vast expanse of clear, sparkling water, there is no plastic in sight.

[indistinct chatter]

[Craig] The contents of the trawl are emptied and floated.

The tiny pieces of plastic then reveal themselves to Jo and Dr. Neal.

[Andrea] Scientists estimate that there are more than five trillion pieces of plastic afloat in our oceans worldwide.

[Craig] There is no "floating island" of plastic.

What exists is far more insidious.

What exists is a kind of "plastic smog."

These tiny pieces of plastic that are floating on the surface of the ocean come from larger pieces.

Over time, the sun's ultraviolet light, ocean wave action, and salt, break it up into smaller pieces called "microplastics."

Microplastics have rough, pitted surfaces.

Waterborne chemicals from industry and agriculture stick to microplastics, making them toxic poison pills.


There are five ocean gyres, and the South Pacific is one of the least studied next to the Indian Ocean.

I've been to three of the five gyres, so this will be my number four.

So, let's go fishing for plastic. All right, let's do it.

[Bonnie] My first study was done in the North Atlantic in 2009.

We took a series of seven samples and by weight, we then estimated that the North Atlantic had 3,440 metric tons of just microplastics. We're not even including the larger plastics.

Seems really heavy.

Maybe we caught a coconut. [chuckles]

Aw, that's... Wow, look at that. Oh, yeah.

[Bonnie] You can see how well this device works.

[Craig] Yeah. It collects everything.

[Craig] They look like they've just broken off something.

Yeah, I mean... They're very tiny. Look at this.

Michael, I think we've found our first "nurdle."

Exactly what that is. Preproduction pellets.

Those things float all around the world, don't they?

Right. What does it look like to you? It looks like a little egg.

[Craig] The sea at night is one of my favorite times.

It's when the ocean truly comes alive and you can virtually see the food chain in action.

Zooplankton feed on phytoplankton. Small fish feed on zooplankton.

Squid feed on small fish, and so it goes on, up and up the food chain.

[man] There are some myctophids in there. [Craig] Oh, wow.

Well, shall we get them on the table and open them up and have a look and see what's in there?

[man] We'll start with this guy.

That's something hard right here. Yeah, what's that?

[birds chirp]

This is the very first sample we did, and it was a night trawl, so we could catch lantern fish.

After I dried the sample, I handpicked the pieces of plastic.

This is what we found.

So, what this means is the feeding that's occurring on the surface of the ocean has these plastic fragments floating around, and is actually intermixing in the food chain.

You know that plastic doesn't degrade.

Most of the time we say it breaks down but that's probably not an accurate way to say it.

It actually breaks up so it's more, um, proliferated.

And when it's proliferated, there's more opportunities for plastics to be ingested.

Many of the marine creatures eating this kind of plastic are in our food chain.

Does that mean, then, that this plastic is getting inside of us?

The problem is, these plastics adsorb chemicals that are free-floating in the ocean.

So when the fish eat the plastics, those toxins then migrate from the plastic into the muscles or the fats, the parts that we like to eat in fish.

Building up in the fish then as they eat more and more of them.

And so, that's the part we like to eat, and that's where these chemicals migrate to.

[rooster crowing]

[indistinct chatter]

[woman] Big crab. Nice.

Oh!

It's a prawn, eh?

[laughs]


Hello, Rosie. How are you? Hi.

Hi, Bula. Hi. Bula, Salota.

Dinner. What are we cooking?

We're having taro leaves with fish in coconut milk.

That's a very traditional Fijian village dinner.

Yes, it is. Yes, it is.

It smells really good except for the smoke.

Yeah, really making my eyes water. Yeah.

Did you light your fire using plastics? Always, yes.

And you do that every time you cook food?

Three times a day.

Instead of buying kerosene, you use plastic because it's easier to burn.

Much cheaper, easier to find, it's free. Much more cheaper.

Very much. And it's free.

I'm feeling that in my eyes.

Do you feel [stammers] that affects you in any way?

You start having problems in breathing and you have problems in coughing.

And sometimes you can have headache. But we...

It doesn't really bother us.

Because, like, we've used that for a long time.

So you're used to it. Yeah. We're used to it.

Whereas I'm not, which is why I'm crying right now. [chuckles]

And I hope you're not crying because of me.

There's no chance. I'm crying because I won't get to try this food.

What I'd like to do is bring back a scientist if we can and do some measurements on the smoke and just see what kind of chemicals are being released from the plastics as you cook.

[stammers] Would you let us do that? Yes, of course.

[Craig] We can have a look at maybe some of the health implications of starting the fires with plastic.

[Rosie] Yes, I think that's a good idea.

[machine whirs]

[Michael] People misuse plastics for a lot of things.

But for cooking, I mean that's... for me, it's kind of very unusual circumstances.

And we wanna have a baseline study to show what kind of chemicals we're actually breathing in.

Because the lung is an interface between that air we're breathing in, plus the smoke and our blood system, and then we get it in our systems.

[Craig] What did we find today then with the experiment that you did with this device?

I'll show you. These filters are white when you put them in, but...

That's brown, almost black.

Yeah. This is a mini lung.

This could be what they're absorbing into their lungs. Yeah, pretty much.

[Craig] This can't be good for your health, can it?

[Michael] What we know specifically from this P.A.H and a combination of those is that they are cancer-causing.

That's one thing.

But there are also maybe phthalates there which are evaporating from plastics which have a large percentage of the phthalates in there to give plastic its properties.

If you breathe them, they have, um, hormone-changing properties, so-called "endocrine-disrupting properties."

And all... lot of other health effects as well.

[Craig] Professor Sue Jobling is the editor of the recent World Health Organization report on endocrine disrupters.

Endocrine disruption is disruption of the normal functioning of the body's hormonal system.

They fool the body into thinking that they are hormones and then they either block or mimic the action or production of hormones.

And in doing so, they interfere with very many bodily processes... growth, metabolism, reproduction, and critically, early development.

[Craig] The majority of ocean plastic comes from just six countries.

[woman] RTHK News.

[man] Billions of plastic pellets have spilled into Hong Kong's southern waters after several containers fell off a ship when Typhoon Vicente battered Hong Kong.

[Craig] Six containers full of nurdles. All of them broke up in the storm and disgorged most of their plastic bags into the sea. [helicopter whirs]

The vast majority broke open and the contents spilled out.

Run them through your fingers there.

[Tracey] Just plastic pellets everywhere. Yeah.

It looked like snow on the beach.

[Craig] On the neighboring Lamma Island, they found tons of this stuff that had come ashore.

It seems the company that made the nurdles has unwittingly put their signature on her.

Sinopec, a giant Chinese oil company that makes nurdles for distribution worldwide.

Close by are some other sacks, also ripped open.

The vast majority of them would have been carried off by the typhoon to disperse their contents far and wide.

[Gary] Four of the six are here, so we've got the one on the top here.

It's the one we found at Beaufort Island.

It's totally destroyed. It's a... It's a 40-foot container.

We've been told it carries a thousand sacks.

There's still one hasn't been found. Still one out there somewhere.

There's a million pellets of plastic in these bags.

So, every single bag saves thousands of marine species, so, every bag counts at this point.

Every day, pellets are getting washed out and trying to get that sense of urgency across.

[Gary] We put a call to action out on Facebook.

"Go to your local beach, this is what you're looking for."

These are the bags, these are the pellets.

You know, we came up with a rapid action plan.

Get a quick survey of the coast so we can see the bigger picture.

And from that, then we isolated some hot spots.

[Craig] "Which beach, Cheung Chau/Mui Wo, needs more people to help?"

Uh, Beach Number 1.

[Gary] I set up the Facebook page, "Plastic Disaster Hong Kong" and it went from 80 to a thousand likes in a few hours.

And it became pretty much the one place where all the information was being posted by everybody.

Even the government were checking it. Sinopec were checking it.

[Craig] Sinopec sent down people from their head office.

They had general managers on the beaches.

[Gary] They have been very responsible. They have been down.

We had an emergency meeting about it. They're very concerned and they're offering all the assistance they can.

Thanks for helping, guys. Um...

There's some more concentrated pellets down the end there.

[Craig] Once you let people know what the problem is, people have their own ideas and can contribute their own ingenuity to help solve the problem.

[Gary] The people of Hong Kong realized the severity of the problem and just came out in their masses to help.

And that is something that I will never, ever forget.

[speaks in foreign language]

So, this is what they found in the fish farm.

Pellets like this floating in the sea, and then they're found in the bags.

We caught three fish.

They cut them open and each fish had five, six, seven pellets in it.

[speaking in a foreign language]

Because they can't ingest anything? They can't take in any more food?

[speaking in a foreign language]

[Craig] Even the supermarkets won't buy them.

So, it's completely destroyed the local market.

[Tanya] In a recent study published in Scientific Reports, U.C. Davis researchers examined 76 fish slated for human consumption in Indonesia, and 64 in California.

They found that in both groups, roughly one quarter had anthropogenic debris in their guts.

The researchers found plastic in the Indonesian population and plastic and textile fibers in the American one.

When sampling blue mussels at six locations along the coastlines of France, Belgium, and Netherlands, microplastics were present in every single organism examined.

When you eat shellfish, you're often eating the entire animal.

So you're more likely to eat plastic.


[birds chirping]

[Craig] Lord Howe Island is a world heritage site...

and home to migratory seabirds like the shearwaters.

Seabirds are incredibly helpful because they act like an army of scientists.

They travel thousands of miles across the ocean.

They pick up plastic off the surface of the ocean, they bring it back to their rookeries where they feed it to their chicks.

And that provides an incredible amount of scientific data in terms of where the plastic comes from, its distribution, and how it breaks up on the ocean's surface.

Dr. Jennifer Lavers... she's devoted her life to studying the plight of seabirds.

[shearwaters chirp]

Shearwaters are incredible birds.

They migrate thousands of miles, stopping only here to breed.

All species of shearwater nest in the earth.

Their parents return from their distant ocean feeding grounds by night to feed their chicks in their burrows.

After 70 to 90 days, the chicks venture aboveground for the first time.

They stretch their wings and begin developing their flight muscles

[indistinct chatter]

[Jennifer] We're gonna take some ambient temperature saltwater, like he would normally be fed by his parents, and Ian's just gonna hold the mouth open here, and I'm going to, um, put the tube down into the stomach if we can get him to cooperate for a moment.

Have you ever received serious injury from one of these?

Indeed. Have I ever. More than I can possibly count.

Depending on how full his stomach is, we could be here for a little while.

No, still nothin'. Still nothin'.

There we go.

[Craig] Whoa! Look at that.

[Jennifer] Need to get some of the oil and stuff out of the way.

It's very thick with all that oil in it.

That's a lot of plastic, isn't it? Yeah, and some interesting colors.

The red is quite, quite, uncommon.

It looks like we've got quite a few of the resin pellets, the nurdles, lots of microplastics.

Right.

There's no way at 935 grams that he would be able to take to the air.

I'm gonna make a bit of a note, he's got some damage to his lower mandible.

Forty-one point seven.

[Craig] Garbage thrown away in the United States can make its way to Antarctica.

Plastic in our coastal waters is pulled into the center of massive, wind-driven, churning circular gyres.

There are many other ocean currents also diverting the trash all around the surface of the ocean.

In reality, it's just one ocean with no boundaries.


[Jennifer] Yeah, the stomach is very, very full, and if we look here, uh, there's some very dark pieces, some very light white pieces, and if you see, you know, as I push on this, it's absolutely rigid.

Completely...

Completely full of plastic all the way up.

Ah! Look at that.

Absolutely no doubt that this bird died as a result of that plastic.

That is literally a gut full of plastic.

It's quite alarming, isn't it? Ah, it's awful.

Range of plastic types and colors.

We've got everything from the blues and the reds, to...

His stomach's just filled with it. Big pieces too.

Big, sharp pieces.

Oh, wow, look at the size of that big, black piece.

That is an enormous piece of plastic.

Unbelievable.

Look at the size of that.

Jen, I counted 234 pieces of plastic out of that one bird.

Is that a record? Not even close, unfortunately.

So, for the species, the record is 276 pieces of plastic inside of one 90-day-old chick.

And that plastic, when we weighed it out, accounted for 15 percent of that bird's body mass.

That's a pretty scary statistic.

If we translate that into human terms, it gets even worse.

That would be equivalent to you and I having somewhere around six or eight kilos of plastic inside of your stomach.

It's equivalent to about 12 pizzas' worth of food inside of your stomach.


[Tanya] Midway Island is miles away from any coastline but it has one of the biggest populations of Laysan albatross in the world.

Like the shearwater, their parents have traveled thousands of kilometers to find food.

It's quite a bit of plastic for just one little bird.

The parents were trying to do the right thing.

There's a lot of squid beaks in here and, um, this purple color is evidence of the squid ink.

It's just a shame that every now and then they got it wrong, and got it wrong in a bad way.

[flies buzz]


[Jennifer] To try and wrap your mind around the condition of this animal and the quality of its life, really, is quite an overwhelming thing.

I do have some pretty rough days... have to go home and really wrap my mind around, "Where do we go from here?"

[flies buzz]

All week we've been cutting up birds and this is without a doubt the absolute worst one that I've come across.

That is an incredible amount of plastic.


[Tanya] I've come to Asinara, a small island off the northern tip of Sardinia, to meet with Cristina Fossi a professor of ecotoxicology at the University of Siena.

The turtle rescue center here has just received a loggerhead turtle.

[Cristina] The animals come from Corsica, right, so from France.

And they have identified the animals because they have a problem of floating.

So, it was floating in a very unusual way and then they have discovered that the cause is the presence of a large amount of plastic in the stomach.

[Tanya] These plastics? These plastics.

They produce gas and then the animal is not more able to go down, to dive.

Does he have to perform a surgery to remove this?

No, no. He use very simple stuff. Yeah.

This one was used to remove the gas from the intestinal tract, then he use...

[man] Metronidazole.

It's, uh, an antibiotic, a normal antibiotic in order to save the animal from infection.

Right.

And then the last point was to use a fat, uh, diet.

Treat the gas, get everything moving... Gas...

...and get it out. Yes.

[Cristina] So, commonly plastic bag that's floating on the surface can be misunderstood as a jellyfish.

And then they can be eating days after days.

Plastic bags or other pieces of plastic, obviously the consequence can be lethal for the animals.

[Tanya] Cristina's name is well-recognized around the world for her stand against the killing of whales and dolphins.

[Cristina] We use the approach of the skin biopsy in order to identify the level of chemicals and the toxicological effect on these wild animals.

Today we are moving around the Gulf of Asinara, try to see some bottlenose dolphin, then we collect some microplastic samples.

[Tanya] An increasing number of dolphins and turtles in the Mediterranean are turning up dead.

Cristina's focus is to get to the bottom of this mystery.

And she has a very unusual way of getting the information she needs.

[speaks in Italian]

[motor revs]

[speaks in Italian]

[man speaking in Italian]

[Tanya] How can you get a tiny piece of blubber from whales and dolphins without hurting them?

[speaks in Italian]

[speaks in Italian]

[Tanya] The dart bounces off, taking a small piece of flesh with it, which the scientists use to conduct their research.

It's very difficult.

[speaks in Italian]

It may be, I don't know, but...

So, we can start to process the biopsy that was collected with the darts.

The species is bottlenose dolphins.

That's one of the common species around the coast and we suppose also one of the most polluted ones.

You expect that you're finding derivatives from plastics in the blubber of these animals because they're consuming other animals that are directly consuming the plastics.

Exactly.

And so, if the plastics are in the food chain for the dolphin, they're also in our food chain.

Exactly.

[motor revs]

[Cristina] We have already very interesting result, but I would like to invite you into the lab.

[Tanya] When animals eat plastic, they're also consuming the toxins attached to the plastic.

Toxins pass into the bloodstream.

There, they bio-accumulate in the fatty tissue and around the vital organs.

When animals use the stored fat, the toxins circulate around the body, interfering with reproduction, metabolism growth, kidney and liver function.

[beeps]

As we have seen this day, there is clear evidence that plankton species and fin whale, for example, have a very high level of phthalates, that we consider one of the plastic derivatives.

[Cristina] But that data can represent a real warning sign of exposure to the Mediterranean environment, including humans, in real toxicological risk.

[indistinct chattering in the distance]

[horn honks in the distance]


[Craig] Smokey Mountain I operated as a two million-metric ton waste dump for more than 40 years.

It closed in 1995.

[Craig] This garbage tip contains so much methane which was produced by the garbage within it, that when it reaches a certain temperature, it catches fire.

That creates this smoke that comes out of the top of the pile and filters over the city of Manila.

So, sweet potatoes, corn, sugar cane, all growing on 40 years of garbage.

[woman] Yeah. [Craig] You worked here as a 12-year-old.

[woman] Yeah. To earn money to support my family needs.

And what would you collect up here?

Recyclables, like bottles, cans, and plastics.

This, uh, local chap here is still harvesting the plastic that's in the ground.

Yeah, lot of plastic. It's just everywhere.

What's the most common disease here? [Leticia] Uh, pulmonary.

Pulmonary, such as tuberculosis, Yeah.

Yes, emphysema.

Emphysema, yes. My father died due to emphysema.

No one knows how much plastic has accumulated in the sea in the last 50 years, but one thing is sure, the pace has picked up.

[film narrator] The world of plastics is present everywhere, yet this presence is but a premonition of a future world.

Our children will see a bit of that world and our grandchildren will not see the end of it.

[Craig] The smell is almost indescribable.

It's kind of like a cross between sewage and oil, and it's everywhere.

[metal clanking]

[speaks in foreign language]

[Craig] The ground, to within two inches above it is covered in flies.

[flies buzz]

[man speaks in Tagalog]

[men speaking indistinctly] [chuckles]

[children chattering indistinctly]

[Craig] I could see a child flying a kite.

You could see the kite was made from a plastic bag and he'd fashioned this himself and used straws as the mainframe for the kite.

If you got behind him and looked towards the sky, he could have been any child anywhere in the world.

[speaks indistinctly]

[chuckles]

[Craig] Every time it rains here, every time the wind blows offshore, the sludge, the plastic from all of that rubbish ends up straight in Manila Bay, and I guess into the stomachs of whatever marine animals are still able to survive in the bay.

A lot of plastic here. I guess a lot of this is brought in by the river.

Yeah, it came from the Pasig River.

Also it's been washed up by, uh, the ocean during typhoons and, uh, also people living here also throw their garbage in this area because there are no garbage collectors coming into the area to collect the garbage.

How much waste... plastic waste is put into the waterways here?

Do you have any idea? Uh, around 1500 tons daily.

One thousand five hundred tons every day?

Yes.

[man] One more, one more!

Ready? [man] You go now!

[boys scream]

[boys laugh]

[boy] One, two, three, four!

[boys scream]

Thank you.

Well, I have to say, you're all much better basketballers than I am.

I'm so bad. I'm sorry. Again, again?

I'm no good at basketball. You're very good at basketball. This guy.

Thank you. Very good.

Do you all live here? In Pier 18? Yes.

And you play basketball all the time? Yeah.

Do you go to school?

Yes. No.

Yes, you go to school? You don't go to school? No?

No. No?

So, what do you do during the day? Uh, scavenger work.

Scavenger, yeah? What do you scavenge for?

This. The plastic?

Plastic.

Ah! And what do you do with the plastic, once you...?

Go to the junk shop. Yeah?

And what do they give you for the plastic?

Money. Money. Is it good money?

What kind of money? Money.

He's asking how much we're earning. It's 150 pesos.

[Craig] Yeah? One day.

For one day? Yeah.

And what do you do with the money?

I give it to my mother. Your mother.

Yeah. Yes?

And what does she do with the money?

Buy the rice. The rice. Right.

So you can play, grow up, be healthy, play good basketball.

Show me. Give me your shot.

[Craig] Most of the waste created by the individuals within each of these villages, towns and cities generally ends up on the streets or in their canals.

It's easy to understand how these sorts of places become delivery systems for plastic into our oceans.

[Craig] I understand that this was ten feet deep in plastic.

Literally ten feet of plastic that was pulled out of this canal.

First we dredged, but we realized that we're digging down to China, we stopped.

[Roel] What we did was to cover it up with, uh, good soil and garden soil, and then we put up, uh, the coco-pillows.

It's, uh, made from coconut husk.

And then we spread it up until there. We vegetated it in the vetiver grass.

[Craig] The plants take the rest of the waste out of the water.

[Roel] Yes. [Craig] And now we've got fish swimming.

[Roel] And turtles. [Craig] Wildlife.

[Craig] It's clean enough for animals to live in now.

[Roel] It's clean enough, yes.

Is it drinkable? Not yet.

Not yet. Working on that one. Working on that one.

[Craig] And so you're going to do this project now throughout the canals and river systems of Manila?

Yes, uh, with the same idea of putting bioremediation and phytoremediation together.

[rooster cackles]

[Craig] Do you think that will solve the plastic pollution problem here?

The one that will solve the plastic solution is the behavior of the people around this area.

So, maybe we'll start with that first and then we'll solve everything else afterwards.

[chants]

[Tanya] I'm off to visit the tiny, isolated coral atoll of Tuvalu in the South Pacific, near Fiji.

As a mother, I care deeply about the effects of plastic on our health.

[sings in foreign language]

Tuvalu gained its independence in 1978.

It began importing foreign goods and food and with that came plastic.

I realized just how tiny this nation was when I flew in over the atoll.

Tuvalu is a microcosm of the entire planet, and they have nowhere to put the plastic.

During World War II, in order to build an airstrip for the Allies in the Pacific theater, large quantities of coral were dug up and carted off to be crushed and mixed for the tarmac.

Gaping holes left behind are called "borrow pits."

They were never filled back in, and are now used for refuse.


[fire crackling]

[chickens cackling]

[Tanya] How long have you lived in this borrow pit?

[woman] Twenty-five years. So, you're 25 years old?

Yeah. In your 25-year lifetime, have you seen the amount of plastic in your surrounding community increase?

Yeah. Very increase.

Before, in my early childhood, I don't see any plastic because we don't used to import packaging, plastics.

[Tanya] Tell me what it was like growing up here as a child.

We always, uh, swim at the borrow pit.

[Marao] We don't know that there is, uh, "affectiveness" to us.

We just swim and then we go... We like fishing.

[Tanya] You used to fish out of the borrow pit and eat the fish?

But you don't do that anymore?

No, we don't eat the fish. We just feed the pigs.

[Tanya] You feed the fish to the pigs? [Marao] Yeah.

[pigs squeak]

What kind of health problems are you seeing people suffer from?

Flu. Some people, they get cancer.

And then some people, they don't get pregnant.

People in the borrow pit are having problems conceiving?

If things don't change in the borrow pit, but the people stay here, what do you think will happen?

I think they get disease. And they don't want to leave.

Like, this is a nice place, but because of the imported packaging, they destroy our paradise.

And I want to give good future for my children.

'Cause I love my children.

[Craig] How does a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier handle its waste?

With about 4,500 sailors onboard, just shy of half the population of Tuvalu the amount of waste generated every day is enormous.

U.S. Navy is looking for a way to deal with shipboard waste without having to go into port.

[brakes squeak]

[Craig] The belly of the latest aircraft carrier will be fitted with a gleaming maze of steel pipes to devour the ship's waste.

PyroGenesis of Montreal was contracted by the U.S. Navy to develop a green technology capable of processing the waste generated by these sailors.

At the heart of this technology is a plasma torch that changes the molecular structure of whatever is put into it transforming it back to its core elements.

Better still, it has no detrimental effect on the environment, it runs off its own energy, and is affordable.

If they could shrink the plant into the size of something that you can put into a shipping container, take to small islands like Tuvalu, set it up so that you can put in all of the rubbish that's existing on the island, and have it turn into inert or nontoxic substances, that's going to go a long way to help solving the problems that exist on islands in the Pacific.

[speaks in a foreign language]

[all singing hymn]

[Craig] If an innovative, workable solution like pyrogenesis is not implemented in places like Tuvalu, the quality of life will continue to decline.

The island will eventually be choked by its own plastic waste.

Combined with the rising sea level caused by climate change, Tuvalu's habitability is under serious threat.

[singing of hymn continues]

One of the kids we've befriended here has developed a pretty bad lingering cough.

We think his problems might be linked to a hobby he shares with his friends, making jewelry out of melted plastic.

[cooing]

[Craig] Tanya is extremely protective of her children, so she's incredibly engaged in their well-being, particularly where she has control.

And she has control over her environment.

[Craig] This is Charlie, huh? [Tanya chuckles]

Surprised he wasn't born with a face mask. [chuckles]

Yeah, right? And a nose clip? [chuckles] And a nose clip.

It wasn't easy for me to conceive. I'm an older mom.

I worked really hard for this.

[Tanya] All the time trying to conceive being really clean in my body.

Went through my entire pregnancy without taking so much as a Tylenol.

Throw the line in there, Till. Okay.

This is actually Catfish Corner.

[Tanya and Till chuckle]

[Tanya] My kids make me really passionate about the subject. Annoyingly passionate.

You know. Ask my husband. He'll roll his eyes.

He goes from this guy who is washing Ziploc bags and I think, "Oh, I'm winning! My husband is washing Ziploc bags!"

I see them drying in the sink and I'm like, "Yes!"

But then he'll forget and I see, you know, plastic wrap over a food, and I'm like, "No!"

Now, you've had a very healthy, uh, lifestyle.

You haven't been able to control every aspect of it, so the likelihood is he may have plastic in his system.

It's terrifying. It's awful.

And it... you know, [stammers] it's made me question sometimes, "Gosh, is even having children the right thing to do?"

I'm still very, very motivated to obviously do the right thing by myself and my family, but also to try to incite change where I can as an environmentalist, as an activist.

I'm optimistic because it beats the alternative.

[Craig] Austin is a very cool city. It's environmentally aware.

It was the first city in Texas to ban the plastic bag.

It's an oasis of eco-friendly people in a state that's headquarters for the largest oil companies and petrochemical plants.

PlastiPure is where we formulate and test plastics for their physical characteristics.

On the CertiChem side, where we are here, we test plastics and other substances, as well as individual chemicals, uh, to see if they have estrogenic activity.

[machine beeps and whirs]

A lot of plastics, perhaps the great majority, probably release chemicals that have estrogenic activity.

[Tanya] Estrogenic activity, or "E.A.," happens when a chemical like BPA or phthalate leaches from plastic and enters the body where it mimics the hormone estrogen.

Ninety-two point six percent of Americans age six and older have detectible levels of BPA in their bodies.

The levels in children between six and 11 years of age are twice as high as those in older Americans.

[Tanya] Are all of those chemicals not regulated?

[Dr. Bittner] No, the FDA at present does not have any regulations for how many chemicals and what levels of chemicals having estrogenic activity can be released from plastics or from cosmetics or papers or silicones.

So, how is the general public protected from that kind of thing?

Uh, they aren't. They aren't?

[news reporter] From baby bottles to sippy cups to food can liners to water bottles hydrating the youngest athletes, consumers have been exposed to a root chemical called Bisphenol A or BPA.

An artificial sex hormone used as a core building block in close to seven billion pounds of plastic on the market today, because of its strength and resiliency.

This isn't a weak, uh, contaminant.

This is a powerful contaminant and it's striking right at the core of American public health.

When something says that it's BPA-free, is that something I can trust?

Over 90 percent of all plastics that don't have BPA, nonetheless, uh, release chemicals having estrogenic activity.

So, BPA is not the only bad guy that we need to be looking out for.

BPA is only one bad guy.

Like saying, "I've caught Al Capone!" Yeah.

"I've just handled... Yeah. [chuckles]

...the criminal problem in the United States!"

We do quite a bit of this testing to see where the issues are but we also use that data to help manufacturers make safer products.

Right. The average consumer goes, "Poly-whatta-whatta?"

You know, "I don't get it.

Tell me what is the right one, what is safe, what isn't."

When we look at baby bottles, we have to look at all the different components that come in contact with the milk or with the baby.

All of the hard and clear materials that we've tested leach these estrogenic chemicals.

Other things, like the nipple, are generally made from silicone or latex.

Latex, uh, always, from our tests, has come back positive for E.A.

And silicone generally is positive for estrogenic activity.

And stainless steel is obviously, I thought, a better option.

If it doesn't have a liner, uh, stainless steel, it tends to be fine and glass tends to be fine.

The colorants, uh, tend to leach a lot of chemicals, so we, uh, try to stay away from colorants when we can.

When we can't, white and black tend to be...

The least? Okay. The least.

And we've started using a lot more foil in our house, rather than this stuff.

Foil is a better option. [Tanya] Okay.

We use foil in the lab because foil doesn't leach these chemicals.

And this, I know, Styrofoam, is a personal, personal pet peeve of mine.

The likelihood is estrogenic chemicals will leach out of styrene products.

Cold foods, anything?

Likely, hot fluids would increase the amount of leaching, but it'd still be leaching something.

[Dr. Bittner] The majority of plastics increase the release of chemicals having estrogenic activity after they've been exposed, to particularly sunlight.

[Tanya] How do you not consume it?

You can't go anywhere without seeing food wrapped in plastic.

You can't go to a restaurant without, you know, takeout boxes being in plastic, hot foods going into plastic.

My answer there is, well, demand safer plastic.

So, what we're gonna do is go inside a couple of restaurants and ask them about, uh...

We'll ask them for food and see if they can't give it to us in a non-plastic container.

Hello, how are you doing? Good, how are you?

I'm not too bad. Can I get the, um, "Power Plant"?

Can I get a small "Berry Blast"?

Hello, there. Um... Can I get an orange juice, please?

What can I get you for lunch today?

I'm getting the BLT. [man] A BLT.

Do you have anything not wrapped in plastic?

I have nothing to do with the food. [Craig chuckles]

Do you have anything other than plastic to put it in?

No. You can buy our giant little reusables.

Yeah, but that's still plastic.

This one's what we got. Without the plastic lid's fine.

Is that paper? It is? Great. Yeah. Yes.

Do you have anything other than plastic? We have that one in a cold press.

It's actually exposed to less oxygen, so it's way better juice with twice the amount of vitamins and nutrients.

That sounds really healthy. Yeah, it's the way to go for the balance.

Yeah, that sounds great. Cool, man.

But do you serve it in anything other than plastic containers?

We have them made, uh, at our central kitchen every morning, and they bring 'em to us on the cold press juicer, so it's ready to go, bottled for convenience.

But that's in plastic, yeah?

Do you have something not plastic? No.

And you serve all your drinks in plastic cups as well?

Yes, sir.

Keep the straw 'cause that's plastic.

I'll have to leave it then, I think. Yeah?

Yeah. Okay, that's okay.

Yeah. Okay. Well, thanks very much. Yeah.

All right, what can I get you?

Yeah, I felt like I was a bit of an eco-warrior.

Tell me, what's my food wrapped in? It's not plastic, is it? [chuckles]

I'm going to die of something.

Yeah, but do you wanna die early or late? [man chuckles]

My boyfriend actually tells me every single day of my life to not be drinking water bottles from my car but if I'm thirsty, I'm thirsty.

You know what? He's right. And you've got that wrapped in paper.

That's good.

That's impressive for a takeaway place.

Take the salad and stick 'em in like, a few of these.

Yeah, that'd be better than sticking it in plastic.

If you could put it maybe between two paper plates.

It's just all the chemicals in this that get into the food.

You've made such a great sandwich, by the look of it.

[Tanya] We gave in to the sales hype of the '50s that plastic was "disposable," that we could throw it away.

There is no "away."

It's so very hard as a parent, as a mom, as a woman, to feel like you can do the best thing, you know, that you can do the right thing anymore.

Every day, you know, we're contributing potentially to a dreadful health problem later on down the line.

No. There's nothing else to put it in.

Beep, beep, beep.

What this white stuff is, is like the worst of the worst.

[Craig] Like a rubbish bin, the earth is filling up with the stuff.

There is nowhere else to put it.

[Tanya] That's why, as much as possible, we choose foods and drinks that don't have plastic around them.

[Craig] It starts with the individual and it starts with us.

What do you do? You can't possibly filter out these tiny particles from the entire ocean.

You can't filter the entire ocean.

In fact, so much plastic is in the ocean now in a form that we really can't get to it that I feel the emphasis needs to immediately shift toward "stop putting it in."

[Craig] Mike deGruy is right.

But how do we get to the point where we can stop putting it in?

Hi. That's me. I'd like to speak to the manager.

I notice when I came in here and ordered, uh, my sandwich and my drink, they both came in plastic containers.

Our cups are a hundred percent plant-based so they can be composted.

You're one of the first places in Austin I've come to that has an alternative.

Is that right?

Best alternative option I've got for you today.

That's perfect. I appreciate it. Least you've got an alternative.

Exactly. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Have a great weekend. You too.

Find me some Gala apples that are not in plastic.

[Craig] Demand that your supermarket deliver your food products in paper or just as they come.

They don't need to be wrapped in plastic and if they are, take the plastic off and leave it with them and say, "You dispose of it and dispose of it properly."

Because once it becomes their problem, you'll find that they will do something about it.


Don't put your plastic rubbish in a dumpster where you know it's going to landfill.

[Craig] In 1991, Germany became the first country in the world to pass packaging laws forcing plastic manufacturers to be responsible for the recycling or disposal of any packaging material they sell.

The industry set up a company to oversee plastic waste collection recognized by the green dot.

When I was a kid, we used to run around the neighborhood collecting glass bottles to take to the store to collect the 5-cent refund that we'd get.

Plastic packaging pretty much killed the bottle deposit system.

But here in Germany, they've reinstated it.

You can take your plastic bottles to almost any supermarket and put them in this machine. And what it does is it reads a barcode which tells the machine the kind of plastic that it is, that it's recyclable, and which retailer it comes from.

So the consumer gets a 25-cent deposit off every bottle, the retailer gets the plastic, which they can sell to recyclers for a lucrative amount of money.

And on the streets of Germany, you very rarely see these things anymore because everybody recycles them.

[Craig] The Germans demonstrated that there is profit to be made.

Today, recycling is a lucrative industry.

Pressure your government.

Tell them that you do not accept that plastic should be in the environment.

The manufacturers of plastic have their own lobby groups and they'll lobby the government to get the best possible deal for them to get their products into the marketplace for the least cost, and the least cost means that they don't have to be responsible for it.

If they manufacture it, they should be responsible for its collection and for its proper disposal.

[Tanya] We will all be better off if less plastic is manufactured in the first place.

Scientists are already calling for governments to reclassify plastic as a hazardous substance.

Because then, existing laws about hazardous substances will already be in effect.

Plastic bags and water bottles are the worst single-use offenders.

What if we ban them outright to stop that vicious cycle?

Rwanda is one of the very few countries that has banned plastic bags.

[woman] Rwanda being an agricultural country... whereby we don't have a lot of industries we have tried to assess the impact of plastic bags

[man] I think it's a shocking waste of valuable resources that these materials are being put in the landfill.

They're so much more valuable. If we put them in the landfill, the cost in Europe is roundabout a minus 100 pounds a ton, $150.

But as a useful plastic, it could be worth plus $1,200, $1,500 a ton.

So, it's a huge difference in value.

We actually have the answers now to recycling most plastics, uh, and the challenge really is to get everyone onboard with those ideas, and also to get the collection infrastructure going right so that we get big volumes coming concentrated in one place, so that people can then have the confidence to invest in the recovery technology.

[Craig] Once sorted, recycled plastics are brought into factories like this where they can become part of a circular economy, cleaned of labels and processed into newborn nurdles, ready to be sold once again.

As recyclers, we think governments could do more to encourage development of circular supply chains.

A lot of recycled plastics can be used back, as we say, in "closed loop," back in the same products.

And that's happening a lot with bottles and pots, tubs and trays from the packaging stream, but there are plenty of other outlets where a short-life item, like a piece of packaging can go into a long-life application.

For example, in construction products, uh, in automotive, in making cars and trains and airplanes and things like that where you can get the performance of the recycled polymer just as good as virgin material that's come out of the ground.

You can take it from a bottle one day to a shirt the next day.

From that shirt, then it can become a component in a vehicle.

It can become something that's sent to space.

Through the Plastic Bank, we make plastic waste a currency, so that people in developing countries can earn an income while preventing plastic from entering the ocean.

[Craig] David Katz and Shaun Frankson founded the Plastic Bank.

They established a social plastic recycling system in Haiti that exchanges plastic for solar cell phone charging, sustainable cook stoves and cash.

[Shaun] It's like a fair-trade plastic where it's ethically sourced... and it's above-market rate income that they earn.

The people in need can go and collect the plastic and create a microeconomy around recycling.

This is something that we can scale anywhere in the world.

[Craig] This is a self-sustaining social enterprise.

All of the plastic collected through the Plastic Bank goes through the recycling process and is sold as "social plastic" to be used in manufacturing by values-aligned brands, or it can be used to 3D print.

They're using it instead of virgin plastic.

If you're choosing between two products and one's made of social plastic and one's not, you're really choosing between, "Do I help or do I hurt the planet?"

Social plastic is really our way that we can create an organic, global infrastructure.

[Tanya] New technology means that waste can now be converted into energy.

In Europe alone, there are 15 million tons of end-of-life plastic going into landfill every year.

Cynar, a waste-to-fuel company, designed a machine that turns end-of-life plastic like candy wrappers and snack packets, which aren't usually recyclable, into diesel.

Using a heating process called "pyrolysis," it turns an environmental problem into a valuable commodity.

Each machine can process about 20 tons of plastic daily, making about 18,000 liters of diesel or the equivalent of 113 barrels of oil a day.

[car engine revving]

[Craig] Islands like Lord Howe manage their plastic waste with solutions that match the way they live.

There is no burning and there is no landfill on this island.

Food waste, the garden waste, paper and cardboard gets composted.

All the recyclables are baled and sent back to the mainland, and currently the island's diverting 85 percent of all their waste from landfill.

This is the recycling sorting facility.

We can separate, we can bale everything.

You can galvanize a community to do amazing things.

[rattling]

[woman] The whales are diving into a sea of plastic bottles and the bottles were collected from the Bristol 10K Race.

[Tanya] It was important to the artist, Sue Lipscombe, to make this sculpture out of sustainable materials.

She used recycled plastics and locally-grown willow.

[Tanya] There are 70,000 bottles.

That means in some way, up to 70,000 people have contributed to this art.

I kick off by telling the kids something about whales and the reaction is just fantastic.

They love hearing about how big they are. They really get it.

They ask you all sorts of perceptive questions an adult might not think about.

And I really just love the enthusiasm of the pupils.

Wouldn't it be great if politicians 40 years down the line still had that same enthusiasm that schoolchildren show when they come here?

Wouldn't the world be a different place?

[woman] We've treated the ocean as a place to throw things, dispose of things that we did not want close to where we thought we live.


[Craig] In 2015, natural history broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, met with President Barack Obama.

Obama, who spent his boyhood in the natural splendor of Hawaii, grew up watching Attenborough's films.

What we're seeing is global trend, uh, that... depend on the entire world working together.

[David] Yes. My daughters, I find Malia and Sasha... they're much more environmentally aware, this generation...

I believe that. ...than some previous generations.

They think it's, uh, self-apparent that we've got a problem and that we should be doing something about it.

I absolutely agree. And the young people, they care.

They know that this is the world that they're gonna grow up in and they're going to spend their lives in.

But I think it's... I think it's more idealistic than that.

They actually believe that humanity, human species, has no right to destroy and despoil, regardless.

They actually feel that very powerfully. Right. They do.

The whole of the ecosystems of the world are based on a healthy ocean.

And if that part of the planet becomes dysfunctional, goes wrong, then the whole of life on this planet will suffer.

The whole planet is where we live.

There is no "away" that you can put things and expect that they're really away.

This phrase "not in my back yard"... the ocean is everyone's back yard or front yard or living space.

No matter how you look at it, this planet is governed by the blue part.

The world truly is mostly a blue place.

I'll be just as worried about Tilly and Charlie when they're... [chuckles] in their 70s and 80s and I'm long gone.

I still want them to be healthy and certainly not suffering the effects of any decisions that I made.

[Craig] I wanna go back to where it all started.

I wanna go back to the whales.

I wanna go and find the juvenile that we first saw.

If whales could talk to us, I imagine they would ask us, "What were we thinking?"

Every other species on the planet works towards the benefit of the ecology and environment that it lives in, but us humans, we just seem like passengers on this earth.

I want to say to the parents of the juvenile, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, on behalf of humanity, for putting plastic into your home."

And I want to say, "We'll share this story because from knowing comes caring and from caring comes change."