Documentary poster for The Story of Plastic


Photo credit: The Story of Plastic

This feature-length Emmy-winning documentary reveals the human side of the plastic problem.


Grades 8 and up

Time Needed 2 hours (90 min screening time)

Toolkit Details

How do I screen the film in my classroom?
The documentary is available on Amazon (S1 E1 is the full film) for $2.99. It is also available on Apple TV and Xfinity video-on-demand, or through The Story of Stuff website

Need help to cover the streaming cost?
Email us at wayfinder [at] and we’ll reimburse you.

What is in the Story of Plastic Toolkit?
Resources for using the Story of Plastic Documentary in your classroom – see below

Guides and Editable Handouts
The Story of Plastic – Stop and Jot Worksheet – Google Doc
The Story of Plastic – Algalita’s Classroom Experience Guide – PDF
The Story of Plastic – Algalita’s Guía de Experiencia en el Salon de Clases – PDF

Format Suitable for group or individual learning

Purpose and Context

This film dives into the impacts of plastic production and disposal on human communities around the world. This alternative focus on humans instead of the environment is an important shift that we need to embrace to be able to address the issue of plastic pollution responsibly. Overall, this documentary is a tool used to coordinate international efforts to address plastic pollution.



  1. Download the The Story of Plastic – Stop and Jot Worksheet – Google Doc. Print 1 copy per student or upload to your Learning Management System. Students can use the Stop and Jot worksheet to record their emotional reactions and thoughts during or after the film.
  2. Browse the The Story of Plastic – Algalita’s Classroom Experience Guide – PDF to find many follow up activities. These are organized and centered around processing the film content, helping students process their emotions and reactions to the film, diving deeper into the solutions, and taking local and political action. The guide is also available in Spanish. La guía está disponible en español. The Story of Plastic – Algalita’s Guía de Experiencia en el Salon de Clases – PDF


Tips and Suggestions

There is striking footage in the film, which, while not violent or inappropriate, can be hard to watch. Take several deep breaths, sit outside, or have a conversation with friends or family to help you process your emotions and thoughts. Remember, there are people across the globe working to solve this systemic problem, and who are here to support you. We’re all in this together!

Associated Standards


  • MS-PS 1-3 Gather and make sense of info to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.
  • HS-ETS 1-1 Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.

AP Environmental Science:

  • 6.5 Fossil Fuels ENG-3.F Describe the effects of fossil fuels on the environment. ENG-3.F.1 Hydrologic fracturing (fracking) can cause groundwater contamination and the release of volatile organic compounds.  
  • 7.1 Introduction to Air Pollution
  • 8.1 Sources of Pollution 
  • 8.2 Human Impacts on Ecosystems
  • 8.9 Solid Waste STB-3.K.2 Solid waste is most often disposed of in landfills. Landfills can contaminate groundwater and release harmful gases. STB-3.L.2 Solid waste can also be disposed of through incineration, where waste is burned at high temperatures. This method significantly reduces the volume of solid waste but releases air pollutants. STB-3.L.3 Some items are not accepted in sanitary landfills and may be disposed of illegally, leading to environmental problems. One example is used rubber tires, which when left in piles can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes that can spread disease. STB-3.L.4 Some countries dispose of their waste by dumping it in the ocean. This practice, along with other sources of plastic, has led to large floating islands of trash in the oceans. Additionally, wildlife can become entangled in the waste, as well as ingest it.
  • 8.10 Waste Reduction Methods STB-3.M Describe changes to current practices that could reduce the amount of generated waste and their associated benefits and drawbacks. STB-3.M.2 Recycling is one way to reduce the current global demand on minerals, but this process is energy-intensive and can be costly. STB-3.M.3 Composting is the process of organic matter such as food scraps, paper, and yard waste decomposing. The product of this decomposition can be used as fertilizer. Drawbacks to composting include odor and rodents.


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