The Story of Plastic Documentary Makes Case For Legislation To Deal With Single-Use Plastic

It’s Oscar time so we are thinking about the best movies of last year and there were many great ones on environmental topics but one, in particular, made a splash when it premiered last October — “The Story of Plastic” — which takes viewers “on a global journey to Pennsylvania, Texas, California, the Philippines, Indonesia, China, and India, among other places.” Now the film is being screened for Members of Congress and has spawned legislation to be introduced next week that would provide the most comprehensive solution yet to reduce single-use plastic and packaging from all material types, build a national recycling/composting/reusable infrastructure by shifting the burden of managing product and packaging waste from local and municipal governments to the producers of single-use products and packaging.

Why This Matters:  Films can help move public opinion on important issues — particularly issues that require such a big change in the way people think about and use and dispose of single-use plastics.  This one uses animations, interviews with experts and activists, and never-before-filmed scenes and it literally shows how the flood of plastic is making our planet sick — smothering ecosystems and poisoning communities around the world.  It’s an addiction that we need to break — currently, because oil is so cheap, global plastic production is projected to more than triple by 2050, accounting for 20 percent of all global oil consumption.  Any effort to wean ourselves off fossil fuels needs to begin with reducing our own plastic consumption — something everyone can do.  But laws like the one to be introduced next week by Senator Tom Udall and Congressman Alan Lowenthal will force businesses to change more quickly.  This is just the kind of paradigm shift we will need — and soon.

The Story of Plastic Pollution 

The documentary comes from The Story of Stuff Project, a nonprofit “dedicated to changing the way that we make, use, and throw away Stuff so that it is more sustainable, healthy, and fair.” It contains “[s]triking footage shot over three continents illustrates the ongoing catastrophe: fields full of garbage, veritable mountains of trash; rivers and seas clogged with waste; and skies choked with the poisonous runoff from plastic production and recycling processes with no end in sight.”  According to the Members of Congress, the annual global production of plastic has reached 335 million tons and continues to rise. The United States alone disposes of or incinerates an estimated 32 million tons of plastic each year, not counting the waste that becomes directly pollution. Much of this plastic escapes into the oceans from coastal nations, representing approximately five garbage bags per foot of coastline around the world. 

“The sheer volume of plastic pollution that is inundating our communities, our waterways, and even our bodies is nothing short of a crisis,” Senator Tom Udall said explaining the rationale behind the legislation. “Our children are already bearing the cleanup costs of a generation of single-use plastic that is clogging our rivers and is infiltrating our food chain…This bill would call on all of us, from companies to communities, to address this crisis head-on.”  Congressman Lowenthal added “There is currently no incentive in this country to reduce and reuse plastic, or for producers to use recycled plastics….The financial burden of cleaning up pollution should not be borne by taxpayers alone. The manufactures and companies who sell the products must be held accountable for the end-use of their products.”

To Go Deeper: Go see the documentary when it comes to your community — for a list of screening locations, click here.

What You Can Do: Add your name to demand that companies #PeakPlastic by 2025 by clicking here.

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