Skip to main content

Meet the microbes that could eat your trash - Tierney Thys and Christian Sardet

  • 321,905 Views
  • 783 Questions Answered
  • TEDEd Animation

Let’s Begin…

Each year humanity produces roughly 400 million tons of plastic, 80% of which is discarded as trash. Of that plastic waste, only one-tenth is recycled. 60% gets incinerated or goes into the landfills, and 30% leaks out into the environment. Fortunately, there are microbes that may be able to take a bite out of this growing problem. Tierney Thys and Christian Sardet explore the future of recycling.

Create and share a new lesson based on this one.

About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Tierney Thys, Christian Sardet
  • Director Elsa Esteban
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Storyboard Artist Elsa Esteban
  • Animator Elsa Esteban, Lucie Zix
  • Art Director Elsa Esteban
  • Composer Salil Bhayani, cAMP Studio
  • Sound Designer Amanda P.H. Bennett, cAMP Studio
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal, Dan Kwartler
  • Producer Anna Bechtol
  • Associate Producer Abdallah Ewis
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Fact-Checker Charles Wallace
Additional Resources for you to Explore
For a more in-depth dive into all the different kinds of plastic, check out this Plastic Pollution Glossary by National Geographic. You might also enjoy this article about plastic-eating enzymes could eliminate billions of tons of landfill waste.

Read about this amazing new enzyme found in compost that has set a speed record for breaking down plastic!

Check out these films and documentaries to dive deep into the world of plastics and what we can do to reduce our plastic use. 👇🏾

Story of Plastic This film is an animated short that explains where plastics come from and why they are such a problem.

The Complicated Journey of Marine Plastic Pollution

This live action film (also know nas The Plastic Vagabond) is a story about microplastic pollution and told by a plastic seahorse toy character.

What happens to the plastic you throw away?
This film traces the journey of a plastic bottle from creation to recycling. 

True Cost This documentary film explores the impact of fast fashion on people and the planet.


A brief history of plastic


Institutional Reports

Below is a non-exhaustive list of organizations and think-tanks that have compiled useful reports on the state of plastic pollution and innovative solutions. 

BioMimicry Institute—How Nature-inspired Material Solutions Will Halt Microplastic Pollution

Ellen MacArthur Foundation—Designing-Out Plastic Pollution

Rethinking the Future of Plastics

UNEP—Plastics Program

Additional helpful websites and articles

Are microbes the future of recycling? It’s complicated.

Why Plastics Are Also a Climate Issue

Plastic-Degrading Potential across the Global Microbiome Correlates with Recent Pollution Trends | mBio 


Organizations working to reduce plastic pollution

Think Beyond Plastic—TBP is a non-profit organization that harnessing the forces of innovation and entrepreneurship to run accelerators and competitions to achieve the United Nations Development Goals. 

The Plastic Pollution Coalition—PPC is a global alliance of more than 1,200 organizations, businesses, and thought leaders in 75 countries working toward a more just, equitable world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impact on humans, animals, waterways, oceans, and the environment.

5 Gyres -- 5 Gyres is non-profit organization that guides people in designing solutions to plastic pollution.

Algalita: Marine Research and Education a—This non-profit organization strives to protect marine ecosystems through research and education and offers classroom resources. 

Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA offers informational resources for understanding and reducing the causes of plastic pollution including: sources, prevention, legislation, and research. 

Surf Rider—This activist network protects marine ecosystems and resources by promoting campaigns and organizing events around the US and internationally.

Special thanks to : Scott Gass, Dana and Noe Sardet and Sharif Mirshak



Avatar for Pebbles xD
We need to get more people to help with these ocean problems, or else our fish will eventually run out.
07/11/2022 • 
 1 Response
 / 1 Updates
Avatar for Alice M
07/12/2022 • 
 0 Responses
 / 0 Updates

Customize this lesson

Create and share a new lesson based on this one.

About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Tierney Thys, Christian Sardet
  • Director Elsa Esteban
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Storyboard Artist Elsa Esteban
  • Animator Elsa Esteban, Lucie Zix
  • Art Director Elsa Esteban
  • Composer Salil Bhayani, cAMP Studio
  • Sound Designer Amanda P.H. Bennett, cAMP Studio
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal, Dan Kwartler
  • Producer Anna Bechtol
  • Associate Producer Abdallah Ewis
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Fact-Checker Charles Wallace