Despite decades of environmental impacts and campaigning for bans and other regulations, the plastic industry continues to expand. From 1990 to 2010 alone, production of plastics more than doubled. Fracking has provided cheap natural gas which is also driving down the cost of making plastic. The United States is now one of the world’s largest plastic producers, and industry is investing tens of billions of dollars in new plastic plants. By 2050, it’s estimated that global production of plastic will triple. Alongside, the industry has pushed a greenwashing image of recycling to fend off negative public opinion, and sell more plastic. Plastic Wars examines how this has come to be, using industry documents and former insiders, and presents the urgency of the need for change, now more than ever.
Hundreds of thousands of mobile phones, LCD screens, TVs, notebooks, tablets, and computers become useless or quickly “out-of-date” and end up in Ghana every year, where children and adolescents dismantle them for “recycling.” Welcome to Sodom profiles the life of those who work in the brutal conditions, handling the world’s electronic waste, and what they endure to barely make enough money to survive. Many years before the wasteland, Ghana was a beautiful savanna with greenery and animals, now it’s a hell of fire, toxins, acrid smoke, plastic, and pollution, at the behest of the global economy and the technoculture that drives it.
Adrift is a short film that explores the phenomenon of space junk, where human-made objects launched into space and are now defunct orbit the Earth literally as garbage. The film makes visible some of the immediate impacts and dangers of the technological escalation of this culture, where old satellites, spent rocket stages, and other items orbit the Earth, only to collide with one another at high velocities, generating smaller fragments that collide with other items, and so on. The end point is a cascading complex of junk that engulfs the entire space around the Earth. Adrift aims to make this phenomenon visible, putting a big question mark against the claims made by many futurists and technologists that future space colonisation would even be possible, if only it were a tenable or sensible idea in the first place…
The microbeads of plastic contained in cosmetics, shower gels, soaps, toothpastes, and many other products, of course directly end up in rivers and oceans, fish and birds, as well as other creatures of the sea and indeed land. But if that isn’t problematic enough, these tiny plastics are only part of the bigger problem of plastic prolifically choking the ocean to death. For all plastics, big or small, break down and fail into smaller plastic particles, having cumulative biological and toxicological effects. This short television report takes a quick look into how marine life is effected by all this, and why we should do something about it before it’s too late.
Trashed sets out to discover the extent and effects of garbage on the natural world. The film travels to beautiful destinations now tainted by pollution, through conversations with scientists, politicians, and people whose health and livelihoods have been fundamentally effected by waste. We see unfettered garbage dumping in Lebanon effecting its own coastline, but also the entire Mediterranean sea; toxic waste mounds set near a school and a future hospital in England; garbage incinerators in Iceland and Japan; the effects of plastic, microplastics, chemical sludge, flame retardants, pesticides, herbicides, dioxins, and other chemicals from waste and their synergistic impacts the world over. Trashed is a call for urgent action to resolve the issue of existing waste, to drastically reduce consumption and output to significantly less harmful levels, while demonstrating how this is already being reached for in many communities around the world.
Almost 50 million tonnes of electronic waste is generated worldwide, every year. A large volume of it is shipped off to Ghana, in West Africa, as “second-hand goods” where electronics are not seen for what they once where, but rather for what they’ve become. Without dialogue or narration, e-Wasteland presents a visual portrait of vast landscapes polluted by electronic waste, shining a light on the endless consumerism of the 1st world; and the real, pervasive, ecological impact of electronic waste worldwide.
Plasticized follows an ocean journey with the 5 Gyres Institute, a non-profit organisation that focuses on reducing plastics pollution through research. The expedition was the first scientific journey looking at plastic waste across the South Atlantic Ocean. The film takes a look at one of the institute’s global missions: studying the effects, reality and scale of plastic pollution around the world. The boat skims the surface of the ocean by trawling, in order to examine the toxic effects of plastic pieces to tissues of marine life. Many tiny bits of plastic are found contaminating the waters, and they’re sometimes not seen because the rough waters push them down. Every few kilometres, one teaspoon of plastic is collected. This may not seem like much, but this amount adds up substantially, considering that the ocean is vast and covers two-thirds of the planet.
The Light Bulb Conspiracy investigates the history of Planned Obsolescence—the deliberate shortening of product life span to guarantee consumer demand—by charting its beginnings in the 1920s with a cartel set up expressly to limit the life span of light bulbs, right up to present-day products involving cutting edge electronics such as the iPod. The film travels to France, Germany, Spain and the US to find witnesses of a business practice which has become the basis of the modern economy, and brings back graphic pictures from Ghana where discarded electronics are piling up in huge cemeteries for electronic waste, causing intense environmental destruction and health problems.
Barbie, H&M jeans, everyday corn—just some of the products recalled due to controls on the use of dangerous chemicals as a wave of legal cases over toxicity is calling manufacturing of certain products into question. The Toxins Return follows the trail from field worker, to customs, to the high street shopper—how much can we trust all these products?
From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. This is by design. The Story of Stuff serves as an introduction to the underside of the current world of mass production and consumption, exposing the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues — shedding the light on the hidden processes behind our modern world. How can we create a more sustainable and just economy?
Imagine a home that heats itself, that provides its own water, electricity and spaces to grow food. One that needs no expensive technology, that recycles its own waste and that can be built anywhere, by anyone, out of garbage. Literally. Thirty years ago, architect Michael Reynolds imagined such a home and then set out to build. Today, there are strong communities of people living in these homes throughout the world, but all doesn’t come without the constant resistance and hindrance from government and big business which are rightly threatened…
The Digital Dump — Exposing The Electronics Waste Trade travels to Lagos, Nigeria with the Executive Director of a global environmental organisation called BAN based in Seattle. The film is recorded over the course of 10 hectic days, during the week that Hurricane Katrina hit, documenting the reality of an escalating global trade in toxic, obsolete, discarded computers and other e-waste collected in North America and Europe. The waste is sent to countries like Nigeria by waste brokers and so-called recyclers. In Lagos, while there is some ability to repair and refurbish old electronic equipment, local experts explain that of the estimated 500 40-foot containers shipped to Lagos each month, as much as 75% of the imports are simply junk and are not economically repairable or marketable. Consequently, this e-waste is being discarded and routinely burned, despite the legal status of it as being hazardous materials.
Eat a takeaway meal, buy a pair of shoes, or read a newspaper and you’re soon faced with a bewildering amount of rubbish. Over the past 30 years worldwide garbage output has exploded, doubling in the United States alone. So how did there come to be this much waste, and where does it all go? By excavating the history of rubbish handling from the 1800s — an era of garbage-grazing urban hogs and dump-dwelling rag pickers — to the present, with mass consumer culture, modern industrial production and the disposable American lifestyle, The Hidden Life Of Garbage documents the politics of recycling, greenwashing and the export of trash to the third world as part exposé, part social commentary…