The Secret Life of Plastic in The Movies

At onegreenbottle we’ve been thinking about why people use single use plastic, aside from convenience. We already know that people are influenced by what they see on screen, and it got us looking back at instances of plastic consumption in the movies. If we were to watch Mean Girls now, for example, I think we’d be more worried about the amount of red cups at Cady’s party than the house getting trashed (or whether Aaron had arrived yet). Or going even more retro, when watching You’ve Got Mail do you ponder Joe Fox’s commentary on Starbucks and how it’s an exercise in meaningless decision making; OR do you angrily ask why he didn’t make the decision to bring a REUSABLE CUP?!

One organisation, Habits of Waste, have launched a campaign to reduce the prevalence of on-screen single use plastic. The initiative, titled ‘Lights, Camera, Plastic’ involves lobbying industry leaders in Hollywood in order to undo the normalisation of throwaway plastic by showing characters using reusable bottles and cups. Inspired by their message, movies such as ‘Marry Me’ (starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Lopez) have had reuseables written into the scripts. Check it out and add your voice to those calling for change.

After scratching the surface by looking at plastic ON camera, we had a deeper look into the impact of plastic use behind the scenes, and the statistics are pretty shocking.

Praised for its efforts towards sustainability, in 2014 ‘The Amazing Spiderman 2’ saved 193,000 disposable plastic bottles going to landfill. If this much can be saved from the making of one movie, think how much single use plastic is being used across the industry.

According to Forbes, the film took a number of other steps (including using biodegradable snow and water based smoke) to make it the most eco-friendly and financially successful film in the history of Sony Pictures.

Fortunately, several organisations including the EMA, MovieMindGreen and PGA Green have been set up in recent years to help advise, certify and empower greener film production, and environmental impact is becoming a key consideration in the industry.

The third pillar of the problem, however, is plastic waste in the cinema itself.

It’s an issue being combated by American cinema chain Cinemark, who are using color-coded recycling containers alongside easily understood graphics explaining what goes where. There’s also been talk of the chain showing a video before each movie explaining their system, so movie-goers know what they’re doing before they get caught up in the flood of people coming out of the theatre.

Other stakeholders are also looking into solutions, for example, Real D are revamping their bins to be more visible, and are now making their glasses out of recyclable plastic so they can be put in ordinary recycling bins too.

It seems clear that many of the issues here require changes in our behaviour. We can all do our bit by:
1. Considering our consumption carefully when we visit the cinema
2. Being aware of single use plastic on screen and using social media to express our preference
3. Adding our voice to existing campaigns.



What is the bigger problem?

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