The physical adsorption of nanosized plastic beads onto a model cellulose film and two living algal species, Chlorella and Scenedesmus, has been studied. This adsorption has been found to ubiquitously favor positively charged over negatively charged plastic beads due to the electrostatic attraction between the beads and the cellulose constituent of the model and living systems. Such a charge preference is especially pronounced for Chlorella and Scenedesmus, whose binding with the plastic beads also depended upon algal morphology and motility, as characterized by the Freundlich coefficients. Using a CO2 depletion assay, we show that the adsorption of plastic beads hindered algal photosynthesis, possibly through the physical blockage of light and air flow by the nanoparticles. Our ROS assay further indicated that plastic adsorption promoted algal ROS production. Such algal responses to plastic exposure may have implications on the sustainability of the aquatic food chain.