Home » Blog » 10 Things We Love About “A Plastic Ocean”

10 Things We Love About “A Plastic Ocean”

In 2011, journalist, filmmaker and adventurer Craig Leeson set out to make a documentary about the elusive blue whale. While shooting off the coast of Sri Lanka, what was thought to be a pristine environment, his team recorded not only the blue whales but an emulsified mess of oil and bits of plastic floating in the top couple metres of the ocean. This moment, together with similar discoveries by actors around the world lay the seed for “A Plastic Ocean,” a film about the effects of plastic pollution on our oceans, on our lands, and on our world. We had the great pleasure of co-hosting a screening of “A Plastic Ocean” at Patagonia Vancouver for World Oceans Day, and we still can’t get it out of our minds.

Here’s 10 reasons why we LOVE “A Plastic Ocean,” and why we think YOU should watch it too!

1. It starts by sharing the unique stories of how its participants came to care about the effects of ocean plastics. 

From Craig Leeson, to renowned free-diver & environmental activist Tanya Streeter, to an array of marine scientists, toxicologists, and ordinary folks around the world, “A Plastic Ocean” reminds us of the moments of discovery that cause us to care. In our work, it can become so easy to be consumed by the little moments of doing, and to forget the big picture of why this all matters – missing the forest for the trees, if you will. But for all of us here at Nada, and I might venture to say all of us in the broader community, we were all inspired by a moment that caused us to stop, think, and eventually act. We love seeing those moments in others around the world and “A Plastic Ocean” showcases those moments so beautifully well.

Craig Leeson speaking with Dr. Jennifer Lavers about her moment of discovery finding plastics in the stomachs of juvenile seabirds.

2. It understands that the problem of ocean plastics is a global problem.

What is clear from the moment you press play is that the issue of ocean plastics cannot be isolated to one geographic area, nor to one original cause. As soon as plastics enter the oceans, they are subject to the whims of ocean currents, and drift around the world such that even the most remote areas – such as the feeding grounds of pygmy blue whales off the coast of Sri Lanka – suffer from plastic pollution. The film also highlights that the human effects of plastic pollution are likewise global, hitting the most vulnerable populations the hardest. While in Vancouver it is so easy to imagine that plastics just go “away”, we are reminded that there is no absolute “away”.

Waste pickers in Manila, Philippines. Plastics collect here from upstream rivers, and are frequently subject to typhoons that push them into Manila Bay and beyond.

3. It is deeply scientific.

While certain segments of our society have developed an unfortunate preference for rhetoric and hearsay over facts, “A Plastic Ocean” remains deeply scientific of understanding the effects of ocean plastics on both people and planet. Following toxicologists who track the levels of toxic dioxins in the fatty tissues of marine mammals, to neurobiologists researching the presence of hazardous chemicals (e.g. BPA, phalates) in the plastics themselves, the stories in this film are augmented by robust research and analysis.

Dr. Christina Fossi, Ecotoxicologist, takes skin biopsies of marine mammals to identify the level of chemicals and their toxicological effects on whales and dolphins.

4. Yet it doesn’t just tell the stories of scientists, but elevates the voices of marginalized communities throughout the world.

Our team at Nada has been largely inspired by the environmental effects of plastic pollution… but as we’ve researched and learned more, we have discovered that as much as plastics harm our land and water, they also harm marginalized communities around the world. These stories are not told only from and abstract scientific view point, but by allowing these communities – in the Philippines, Fiji, and Tuvalu – to share their own stories and perspectives. It reminds us of the great privilege we have, and on the social issues of access, inequity, and ownership that intersect with narratives on plastic consumption and disposal.

Despite well-known health implications, Rosie, and many others in Fiji, burn plastic rather than kerosene to light their cooking fires because it is easier to burn, easier to find, and free.

5. It recognizes that plastics aren’t just bad for the ocean. They’re bad for our health, and the ones who are the most affected are also the most vulnerable.

Health isn’t something we often talk about at Nada, yet it’s another important lens to discussions on plastic that is only just beginning to be understood in its full effects. Once again, this issue tends to affect vulnerable populations the most – from communities like Rosie’s (above) who burn plastics for cooking fuel, to children in North America who are most exposed and least protected to the harms of BPA, phalates, and other plastic additives in single-use convenience items.

Dr. George Bittner, Professor of Neurobiology speak with Tanya Streeter about the presence of estrogen activity (EA) in most plastic additives, few of which are regulated by the FDA.

6. It stays present.

This isn’t just something that happened in the past, and it’s not just something we can put off to the future. It’s happening now, which means we must start acting now.

You’d be surprised at how early this message popped up in this film.

7. While it is easy to become overwhelmed, it also showcases amazing initiatives for a better world.

If all that I’ve said so far has made you want to curl up in a blissful state of ignorance, let me also tell you that despite all of the negative effects of plastic on our oceans, despite all of the negative effects of plastic on our communities, and despite all of the negative effects of plastic on our health, there are some amazing solutions being discovered, and that gives us hope. From local resilience and ingenuity, to technological advances in safe incineration, to regulatory change around the world, “A Plastic Ocean” gives hope for a better future.

The Pasig River used to be as polluted as Smokey Mountain (shown in Photo 2). It has been recovered through regenerative Vetiver grass and a dose of local ingenuity.

8. But it never forgets that the biggest change is the one we can make right now, right here, in our own communities, as consumers and as citizens.

Sure, all that technological advance and regulatory change is cool (and so amazing), but it’s not the solution. As this film mentions over and over again, “it starts with the individual, and it starts with us.” This film ends with a number of real and effective changes WE can make right now. Well, I’m not going to spoil the film’s grand finale, but let me tell you, I’m feeling pretty empowered right now. It was such a special moment to watch this film at Patagonia, with over 200 inspirational humans in the room, and having it validated that what we’re doing, what we’re all doing, is a huge part of the solution. Keep on keeping on, friends.

Demand that your supermarket deliver your products in paper or just as they come.

9. All this is backed up with some of the most stunning photography.

Being in touch with nature as one of the most important connectors for us. We are so lucky to live in an amazing corner of the world nestled between ocean and mountains, and we must always remind ourselves never to take it for granted. Seeing our beautiful world inspires us to continue our fight towards a world that is just for both people and planet. The images in this film reinforce this feeling, over and over again, and for that we can’t thank Plastic Oceans enough!

My lowly screenshots can’t do justice to the beautiful filmography… just trust me that this underwater video camera is much better equipped to do the job!

10. Last reason you should watch “A Plastic Ocean”? It’s available on Netflix…

… so what are you waiting for?!

A big thank you to Plastic Oceans (the foundation behind the film – check them out here) for all the work you’ve done and for continuing to push forward and inspire.


“We’ll share this story because from knowing from caring, and from caring comes change.” — A Plastic Ocean