A Whale’s Tail Analysis

There are plenty of short films that have been released which tell the story of plastic and explain how it has impacted our environment. For example, we have watched several short films in class, such as the Story of Plastic and the short mockumentary. I decided to look at a different style of video for this assignment, and I took a look at a short cartoon video that was released by Cartoon Network and depicts the story of a Whale’s Tale that is stuck in plastic. The title of the video is “A Whale’s Tail” by CBC Kids.  This film is meant for younger audiences, such as children who watch Cartoon Network. The purpose of the film is to educate kids on the effects of plastics in the ocean and how they harm marine life. The organization that released this video is a Canadian children’s network, and after doing some research, I could not find any means for bias within their organization. They educate children on global issues in a way that is easy to understand and does not put too much pressure on the youth.


From a child’s perspective, the trash is harming marine life and causing harm to the animals’ atmosphere. In the short film, the fishermen are looking in the water while putting a fishing net from the water. After picking plastic from the net, a fisherman becomes scared of a loose crustacean in the net. He drops the net in the water, which eventually catches on a whale’s tail. Following that, there is another scene where there is a jellyfish that camouflages from a sea turtle because it is surrounded by plastic bags. The sea turtle cannot distinguish the difference between plastic bags and their food, which causes a false sense of fullness, called satiety.


In the film, the animals work together to “clean up” the ocean by collecting the trash and placing it in the net that is caught on the whale’s tail. By doing so, they cleaned up their habitat but had to do so by harming the whale. Children understand this message and are able to feel sympathy for the hurt whale. Finally, the marine life work together to raise the whale to the surface so it can breathe. When arriving at the surface, the fishermen who lost their net on the whale’s tail helped to free the whale from the trapped net and garbage mess.

Image from A Whale’s Tail (CBC Kids) Youtube.


Overall, I believe that this short film was very effective in teaching the basics of ocean pollution to children. They can only understand this topic to a certain extent, because not even adults are able to tackle this issue entirely. The network created a film that is educational, emotional, and effective in teaching the audience to not pollute the ocean, which is a great message to spread to new generations. After all, it will affect them the most as global warming is an increasing issue.





The Life Cycle of a Phone Case

Purchasing plastic nowadays is inevitable for most people, due to lack of alternatives and the major push for sterile products during the COVID-19 pandemic. One plastic item that is important to me, as a consumer, is my plastic phone case. A phone case is not something that adds value to my life, because I would not die if I did not have a plastic case on my phone, but it does increase the safety of my cell phone. Having a case on my phone means that I can bring it to places and not worry about the important information on my phone disappearing if I dropped it and broke it. It also is helpful because I don’t want to have to pay hundreds of dollars on a new phone if I can buy a $50 phone case that will prevent that. 


The phone case that I currently have is an Otterbox iPhone 13 clear case which is made out of Polycarbonate and synthetic rubber. Polycarbonate is a thermoplastic which means that it can be melted and reshaped, which is a better trait for plastic compared to a thermoset plastic, which is permanently shaped. The Otterbox website states that the case is made out of 50% recycled plastic but it is unclear where the recycled plastic came from previously. That also means that the other half of the case is 50% new plastic, which is a point not mentioned on the website because that is not a good selling point. There are many different types of synthetic rubber but it is important to note that synthetic rubber is an elastomer and derives from petroleum. The company is based in California, but their products are made throughout the US, China, and Mexico. 


A single phone case can last for years, depending on how you take care of it, but personally, they last me around a year before they turn yellow and begin breaking down. I also drop my phone quite often and the Otterbox cases always prevent my phone from cracking and breaking or shattering the screen. The brand itself states on their website, “We’re at the beginning of this journey toward sustainability and we don’t have all the answers — but we’re asking the right questions to help us bring Otter innovation to better managing our environmental footprint” (Otterbox). They appear to care about their environmental footprint, as they do use recycled plastic, but they could do more as a company for the planet. The company itself is worth billions of dollars, so it is shocking that they do not have a plan in place already, but they are working on a plan currently. An important point to mention is that they do have a warranty plan so that if your case breaks within a certain amount of time, they will replace it for free. This is a nice feature from the brand, but they just send you a new one instead of taking the old one back and recycling it into a new case. After the case is broken and no longer usable, it is sent to the landfill where it will never decompose. 


The fact that a phone case is a very important item in my day-to-day life speaks to how times have changed drastically in the past fifty years. It is upsetting that this is an item that I need and there is nothing I can do about its afterlife, except look for a sustainable alternative. Even if there is an alternative, it might not perform at the level that my plastic phone case would, which would be a waste of money in the long run. Hopefully, Otterbox is able to find a way to incorporate more sustainable practices into their products in the future, but for now, they are the best plastic phone case on the market in my opinion. 

Green Business Feature: MOM’s Organic Market

Recycling rules are different everywhere, and the rules can be constantly changing. Some states and counties collect certain items, whereas others will not take it. For example, in my hometown, Fairfax, Virginia, the county does not take glass items in single stream recycling. This is because glass is heavy and it costs more to transport it. This leads to issues with recycling further down the line, because there is a surplus of glass items that have nowhere to go. For this blog entry, I decided to talk about a company located in my hometown, called “MOM’s Organic Market”. I chose this business because I worked there for about a year, and I was involved in investigating and restoring environmental issues. Their purpose is to protect and restore the environment and one of the ways they do this is through a recycling program called the “Recycle Center”. 

The idea was created by an individual who worked for the company and it has been implemented in every single one of their stores across the east coast. The Recycling Center is a wooden container with different labeled compartments that correspond with unique types of recyclable items. Since being implemented, MOM’s has recycled hundreds of tons of compost, holiday lights, natural cork, and more. A unique aspect of the company is that some locations accept items that their corresponding counties do not accept. For example, the Alexandria, Virginia location participated in a drive with The Purple Glass Bin Project. This organization collects and crushes glass (which turns to sand and gravel) in Northern Virginia, as many counties in Northern Virginia do not accept glass. Together, they recycled 822,520 pounds of glass and raised awareness throughout the state on this issue. 

MOM's Organic Market evolves as it expands to 19th location | Supermarket News

How the Recycling Center works is: you enter any of the locations along the east coast and ask where the Center is located in the store. There is no charge whatsoever to drop off recyclable goods, and you do not have to be a customer to drop off items. You then toss whatever items are recyclable, and you leave! It’s as easy as that. If you have questions about recycling, all of the employees are knowledgeable on the topic and can locate a place or organization that would take particular items. One item they do not accept is plastic grocery bags, because most places in Northern Virginia that do accept them as recycling tend to incinerate the bags, causing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. The company does not “greenwash” their sustainability goals, as the entire purpose of the business is to protect and restore the environment. The owner and founder of MOM’s is named Scott Nash and he made the business as a grocery store to pay for the real mission, which is fixing the state of the environment. The company does not provide plastic bags to customers, and they also only use solar and wind power for energy sources. This company is truly a “green” business that gives back to the planet, and their employees.   


“Glass.” Fairfax County Virginia, https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/publicworks/recycling-trash/glass. 

Hamstra, Mark. “Mom’s Organic Market Evolves as It Expands to 19th Location.” Supermarket News, 5 June 2018, www.supermarketnews.com/organic-natural/mom-s-organic-market-evolves-it-expands-19th-location. 

“Our Purpose Is to Protect and Restore the Environment.” MOM’s Organic Market, https://momsorganicmarket.com/ourpurpose/. 

Purchasing Plastic Alternatives


In order for Americans to live a plastic-free lifestyle, they would have to reconstruct multiple aspects of their economy.  Businesses have relied on plastics for storing, transporting, and protecting their products for decades. Plastics are such a huge part of our lives, it seems almost impossible to live a plastic-free lifestyle. Instead of living a completely plastic-free lifestyle, we can start by using plastic-free alternatives here and there and become more conscious altogether. Becoming more aware of the issues surrounding sustainability is the first step in revolutionizing the future.  I don’t think there are many people who purposefully pollute the world, but there are many people who are uneducated about the implications of single-use plastic. By spreading the world and encouraging plastic alternatives, Americans may begin to open their eyes to the issue at hand.

Plastic Bottles, Bottles, Recycling

After reflecting on how much plastic I use as a consumer, I realized that there are several things that could be altered. Personal care items such as shampoo and conditioner could be replaced with bars of soap, which do not use plastic. Toothbrushes can be made of bamboo, rather than plastic as well. Toothpaste has even been converted into solid tabs in glass jars by several companies, which reduces plastic in the long run. Women’s sanitary products are a huge problem regarding sing-use plastics, because they contain several different kinds of plastic within one single product. Tampons have plastic packaging and wrappers, while sanitary pads are also surrounded by endless plastic. There are alternatives such as multi-use menstrual cups by Fair Square and OrganiCup, with many more developing brands and alternatives to single use products.

One plastic item that would be very difficult to replace is medicinal pill bottles. There are millions of orange pill bottles that become distributed throughout the world every year. They are given out by pharmacies, which are highly regulated, so I do not think it would be possible to find an alternative. Pill bottles are made of polypropylene which is recyclable, but difficult to do due to the size of the product. There are several different programs that recycle orange pill bottles, but it would be difficult to get rid of altogether.

I attempted to replace my shampoo and conditioner bottles with bar soap. I have previously used the product Ethique, which is a solid bar of shampoo and conditioner. I liked using that before, so I purchased the same one again and I was not disappointed. It is exactly the same as using liquid shampoo and conditioner from a plastic bottle, without the plastic left behind afterwards. This product arrived in a cardboard box with no plastic on it, which categorizes it as a plastic-free alternative. I was happy with the outcome of this mini experiment, and I am willing to try the toothpaste tabs as an alternative in the future.

Can This Be Reused?

After being assigned to collect every piece of “single use” plastic, I thought it would be easy to make a concise list of everything that is plastic in my day-to-day life. For the first Outside of Class Journal Entry, I was able to list about 40 non-synthetic materials that I touched throughout one Saturday, and I came prepared to talk about it in class. After sitting and listening to my classmates discuss all the items they wrote, I realized that a lot more things are plastic than I thought… From light switches to shower curtains to the fabric sewn in my chair, it seemed almost everything around me was coated in the material or was plastic itself. After coming home and recounting, the list was not about 40 items, it was a lot more than that. I was nervous to collect all my single-use plastic throughout one day, but I knew that once I could physically see it all, I would be able to decide what is necessary and what is not.

After collecting all the items, I laid them out and looked at the various materials that composed the disposable mess. Some of it was thin, some was hard and sturdy, some was soft, while others felt sharp. I came to realize that plastic has so many forms and finishes, and that you can touch something that may look like wood or metal, and it is really just plastic (both definitions).

I also noticed that most of the disposable plastic that I used throughout the day was for food purposes, like cups, storage containers, water bottles, utensils, etc. Even though a lot of the materials pictured above are compostable, they are still deemed “single use”. Because of this, cups that are in perfectly good condition get thrown away even though they definitely could be used again, and probably a third time too.

Most of the food that uses single-use containers cannot be reused again because it is often destroyed after opening. For example, the popcorn bag cannot be reused because it is covered in grease and it is broken after opening. The fruit snack bag will not serve any other purpose than being a container for fruit snacks, so why would someone want to keep that? No wonder so much plastic is thrown away… It is just SO unnecessary.

The last group of disposable plastics I looked at was medical/other. This contained ziplock bags, q-tips, bandaids, and probe covers for my plastic thermometer. These items were a mix of necessary and unnecessary items, as there are few replacements for plastic medical equipment. Items such as the ziplock bags (they are not actually ziplock brand, I am just using the name to describe them) are unnecessary because there are alternatives in place such as glass storage. These storage bags are made from plant material and are compostable, which is why I bought them. It didn’t feel right to attend a school so close to the ocean and use so much unnecessary plastic… yet here I am, overusing plastic.

This assignment was a good representation of how much plastic I use on a daily basis, because I did not plan to collect plastic the day I did this assignment. I was planning on doing it during the weekend, which would have reflected a smaller amount of plastic as I do not go out as much on the weekends. I know it is not worth it to feel guilty, because from here on I can only be better about how much plastic I use. I know that from now on, I will think about my ability to reuse “single-use” items. Next time you use a pack of cutlery or a plastic straw, think to yourself, does this really need to be thrown away or can I maybe use it one more time?