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  • Vicki Lynn Ramsay

Review: A Plastic Ocean

If you’re going to watch a single film about the plastic problem in our world today, A Plastic Ocean is our pick for the most comprehensive view of the crisis of plastic pollution. This film was shot across more than 20 locations over 4 years, and shares perspectives from journalist/explorer Craig Leeson, diver/explorer Tanya Streeter, and international scientists. The film was one of the first to uncover the myth of plastic recycling and how our domestic recycling programs are not (and will never be) able to keep up with plastic production.

These explorers, people who grew up with intimate connections to the ocean, imagined a deep ocean world of pristine beauty, a place where sea creatures enjoy enduring freedom from people and coastal influences. But even beyond the impact from the fishing industry, A Plastic Ocean reveals how plastic pervades nearly every sphere of the ocean environment, from the surface to the deepest ocean floor.


There are five gyres of plastic in the ocean: in the North and South Atlantic, in the North and South Pacific, and in the Indian Ocean. When I tried to imagine what a gyre of plastic might look like, a gyre twice the size of Texas, I pictured a sort of island of plastic floating in the ocean, perhaps something that we could access and remove. The film, however, reveals in close-up images the way plastic in salt water is less like an island and more like a fog of minuscule particles of plastic, a fog that persists for miles and miles. This plastic gyre has accumulated from the 8 million tons of plastic that are dumped in our oceans each year.

Nothing about this problem is easy to fathom. But A Plastic Ocean reveals the reality of our plastic crisis with startling clarity.

The film shows how both humans and animals are hurt by the enormity of global plastic production and our failure to reduce, reuse, or recycle it. Children in Malaysia swim in rivers choked with plastic, and everyday plastic products like fishing line, six-pack rings, and bottle caps have disastrous consequences for ocean organisms. Albatross, who for ages have relied on the ocean for its life-giving sustenance, now mistake many of these brightly colored plastic particles for food, and the impact on their chicks is devastating.

What I appreciate most about the film is not only the images of raw beauty and poignant stories, both human and animal, but also its scientific presentation of the facts and vital discussions of solutions. A Plastic Ocean shows the efficacy of ocean clean up projects and community activism, and introduces ways to change our own habits as consumers. This film was one that we chose for our first film festival in our small town and it was well-received by a wide audience: adults, children, the science-minded, and the caring layperson. All appreciated learning how we can work together to be wiser stewards of our lands, rivers, and oceans and simply better roommates on this Earth we share with so many incredible creatures, great and small.


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