Earth Day 2023 Reality Check: 10 Documentaries on Plastic Waste and Climate Justice

Documentaries for Earth Day 2023: The Impact of Plastic Waste and Climate Justice on Our Planet
To better understand how we are all accomplices in the plastic poisoning of the planet, here are some plastic waste documentaries to watch.
Plastic is everywhere; from grocery bags to electrical gadgets, tons and tons of plastic surround us. An average individual uses about 700 single-use plastic bags a year! That is 5 trillion globally per year. We ditch our plastic without knowing that it is coming back to us in dangerous ways.


1 . A PLASTIC OCEAN / 2016

Journalist Craig Leeson teams up with diver Tanya Streeter and an international team of scientists and researchers, and they travel to twenty locations around the world over the next four years to explore the fragile state of our oceans. This eye-opening documentary explores the impact of plastic pollution on the world’s oceans, uncovering the devastating effects of plastic waste on marine life and the ecosystem as a whole.
Watch it here on Amazon

2 . Plastic Island (Pulau Plastik) / 2021

Indonesia has reached a plastic pollution state of emergency. Single-use plastic waste is breaking down into micro-plastics, entering the ocean, harming marine life and ending up on our plates. We need to take action now!
A documentary film by Visinema Pictures, Kopernik, Akarumput, and Watchdoc that tells the story of three individuals and their fight against single-use plastic pollution. Gede Robi, is the Balinese vocalist of grunge-band Navicula; Tiza Mafira, a young lawyer from Jakarta; and Prigi Arisandi, a biologist and river guard from East Java. The three protagonists explore the extent of plastic pollution in Indonesia, how it has entered our food chain and is impacting our health, as well as what can be done to address the plastic pollution crisis. Join Gede Robi, Tiza Mafira, and Prigi Arisandi on their journey to capture the facts about single-use plastic pollution across Indonesia.

3. The Majestic Plastic Bag / 2010

Termed as a Mockumentary, The majestic plastic bag is a humorous account of a plastic bag’s journey to the Pacific ocean. The documentary features only one character; the plastic bag that overcomes various obstacles in its determination to reach its destination. The film uses a reverse psychology approach to pass it’s a message on the danger of plastic pollution.
It presents the plastic bag, aptly named “our bag” as the hero, and human clean-up services as villainous. The film through irony exposes the dangers of plastic, and how dangerous one plastic bag floating aimlessly actually is. As such, it challenges negligence and urges everyone to take proper responsibility for “our bag”. 

4. Chasing Coral / 2017

Chasing Coral takes a closer look at the impact of climate change on coral reefs, a crucial ecosystem that is under threat from rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification. Chasing Coral documents the bleaching and death of coral, especially during the temperature spike of the recent extremely strong El Nino 2015/16. Coral is to the sea what tropical forests are to the land, where the Earth’s greatest biodiversity occurs. The comments about the beautiful cinematography and tragic coral loss are all true. The film ends on an upbeat note, asserting the possibility of restoring coral life through changes in human behaviour. 
Chasing Coral

5. Girls For Future / 2021

‘Girls for Future’ follows four girls as they fight for a better future. Aged between 11 and 14 years, they are all directly affected by environmental destruction – from air pollution to water shortage – and its consequences. The protagonists are from India, Australia, Indonesia and Senegal, respectively.
Girls For Future
The global climate crisis is multi-faceted and complex. When media or government officials speak of possible solutions, these are often described as so complex that they can hardly be implemented. Yet in this documentary, we meet four young girls, each of which it finding ways to protect and restore our climate. Their resilience is a testimony of strength and patience. Their energy and enthusiasm will inspire viewers of all ages.

6. Plastic China / 2017

Set in a plastic recycling factory in Shandong province, China, this plastic documentary takes a close look at two families in the plastic wasteland. Wang Jiuliang directed this documentary which took 18 months to film. Unlike some of the other plastic documentary films, Plastic China tells the story of how the families, without expert knowledge or taking proper health precautions, sort through heaps of imported rubbish.
This documentary uncovers a glimpse into the lives of those working in China’s plastic recycling industry, revealing the human cost of our reliance on plastic

7. The True cost / 2015

The True Cost examines the impact of the fast fashion industry on the environment and the workers who produce our clothing, shedding light on the hidden costs of cheap, disposable fashion. The documentary reveals less-spoken story about greed and fear, power and poverty, examining connections between fashion, consumerism, mass media, globalization and capitalism. 

8. Tapped / 2013

The high cost — to both the environment and our health — of bottled water is the subject of this documentary that enlists activists, environmentalists, community leaders and others to expose the dark side of the bottled water industry. Americans may rethink their obsession with bottled H20 when they learn of the unregulated industry’s willingness to ignore environmental and health concerns, and the problems that arise as a result.
Tapped Documentary

9. Trashed / 2012

Actor Jeremy Irons investigates the global scale and impact of humanity’s modern wasteful consumerism and pollution. The film is a call for urgent action to resolve the issue of existing deposits and drastically reduce our consumption towards sustainable levels and zero waste, but also demonstrates how this is already being achieved successfully in many communities around the world.

10. The Human Element / 2019

With rare compassion and heart, “The Human Element” follows environmental photographer James Balog on his quest to highlight Americans on the frontlines of climate change, inspiring us to re-evaluate our relationship with the natural world.