FILM ANNOTATION: ADDICTED TO PLASTIC

1. Title, director and release year?
- Addicted to Plastic, Ian Connacher, 2008

2. What is the central argument or narrative of the film?
- This film argues that our addiction to plastic is a problem and there are many ways to address it. This film spans the globe looking at the creative ways in which corporations and small villages alike have turned plastic waste into a commodity, often times unrelated to the typical plastic bag/bottle. It shows how inefficient we have been in reusing and recycling our plastic and the potential for this ‘waste.’ In watching this film, I no longer saw plastic waste as waste, but as raw material for a wide range of other products.

3. What sustainability problems does the film draw out?
- This film draws out the many problems with recycling system most people deem a godsend. Most issues about the recycling process are unknown to the majority of people who actually recycle. It is assumed that when a bottle is put in a recycling bin, that it will be shipped off and reused to make more plastic. This common misconception is addressed in this film in some detail (such as the fact that many bottle caps/lids are not made of the same plastic as the rest of the bottle and only certain types of plastic can actually be recycled.
- The film also depicts the environmental implications of our plastic usage through fishing for plastic. The data from the ocean was astounding. One of the statistics stated that there is about forty-six thousand pieces of plastic in every square mile of the ocean. This speaks volumes not only to our usage but to our lack of care in disposing of it. This plastic was shown to directly affect the livelihood of the aquatic wildlife; so much so, one scientist found in a single ocean sample (a quantity comparison of plastic to plankton) ten times more plastic than naturally occurring food. With wildlife mistaking plastic for food, many fish and birds die with plastic lodged in their digestive systems. The fish that do survive are often caught and served up for dinner.
- Although not explicitly mentioned, another sustainability problem implied by this film is the close-mindedness of our culture. We very much take everything for granted and underestimate the consequences of our actions, such as living a disposable lifestyle. Furthermore, we have lost our creativity in how we reuse things. The many possible solutions given by this film are all very innovative in turning what we consider trash into commodities.

4. What parts of the film did you find most persuasive and compelling? Why?
- I found all of the solutions from around the world to be the most compelling part of the film. The businesses that found a way to use plastic waste to create commodities were quite interesting, ranging from 100% recycled plastic coats and carpets to railroad ties and designer purses. Also, the fact that there are businesses in even the poorest of countries creating these commodities was amazing to see. It gives inspiration; if they can do it, so can we.
- The films use of statistics, diagrams, and animations (like the life story of a resin bead) were all very conducive to making the audience understand the severity of our addiction to plastic. Some of my favorite statistics: 80% of plastic in the ocean comes from land; in Holland, there are 70kg of plastic per kilometer of the beach each day; and Denmark has a 90% recycling rate.

5. What parts of the film were you not compelled or convinced by?
- Although this film gave several suggestions for solutions from a business/government perspective, it did not provide any solutions that consumers themselves could partake in. I am not sure whether there is much a consumer can do besides avoiding plastic bottles and bags and purchasing 100% recycled commodities, however, the film did not even touch on those actions as things consumers could do. Thus, the film is effective in educating audiences, but not in informing them of how to take action.

6. What additional information does this film compel you to seek out? Where do you want to dig deeper and what connections do you want to make with other issues, factors, problems, etc.?
- This film compelled me to seek out how other countries (such as India and Denmark) made the transition to a less plastic-dependent lifestyle. I wonder just how effective the banning of plastic bags would be in the United States, where I’m sure millions of them are used daily; or how we could give consumers incentive to return their plastic bottles, as done in Denmark.

7. What audiences does the film best address? What kind of imagination is fostered in viewers? Do you think the film is likely to change the way viewers think about and act on environmental problems?
- As mentioned above, I believe this film does an excellent job of educating audiences, whether consumers or business owners. It encourages consumers to be mindful of their addiction to plastic and business owners to be creative with their waste. After all, what better way to get rid of your trash than to give it worth and use it again or sell it to someone else? It doesn’t change the corporate profit motive, but it changes the notion of the value of ‘waste.’

8. What kinds of action or points of intervention are suggested by the film?
- Again, the film suggests points of intervention on the part of the government and action to be taken on the part of businesses, and implicitly consumers (in supporting businesses that do take action). Intervention on the part of the government would come in the form of new legislation either mandating or giving incentive to recycle (as done in Denmark) and avoid plastic bags (as done in India). As far as businesses taking action, unless it is profitable for them, change is hard to create. In this instance, reusing waste sounds highly profitable (granted I am not a business owner) and thus should come easily to businesses, depending on the industry.

9. What could have been added to this film to enhance its environmental educational value?
- I would have liked to see more encouragement for action on the part of the consumer, because the majority of the people that watch documentaries such as these want to make a change and are motivated to do so, especially when plausible courses of action are suggested.
- Overall the film did a great job of explaining the life of a resin bead, thus educating viewers on the origin of plastic and its implications on the environment throughout its life. I was, however, very curious as to how the biodegradable plastic actually works and why it has not been released to the public yet. Perhaps making a comparison between the various types of plastics would have been more comprehensive to those who underestimate the problem with plastic sitting in landfills.

[posted April 30, 2010]