The horrific cost of the number of plastic products people use annually is well-documented. The news media and bloggers around the world shine a light on the plight of our planet and its people.
While they have raised awareness, short excerpts, photographs, and written text don’t do the enormity of the crisis justice.
Some filmmakers have documented the dangers of plastic pollution and its effect on the environment as cautionary tales to persuade people to change their habits.
By showing the magnitude of the problem as well as its consequences, they are highlighting the need for plastic consumerism to stop.
Here are seven films about plastic that will make you change the way you see your personal plastic usage:
1. Plastic China
The devastating effects of the foreign waste industry in China are explored in this award-winning documentary film. Directed by Wang Jiuliang, the film tells the tale of Chinese families who earn their living by processing imported plastic.
Economically vulnerable, these families are exploited by those higher up in the industry. They earn a pittance and live in unhealthy, squalid conditions. They subsist among the detritus of the lives of people from countries far away from their reality.
One of the film’s subjects is 11-year-old Yi-Jie. She is uneducated and has no choice but to help her family earn a living.
Inequality in Chinese society is also highlighted, as the life of Kun, who owns the plastic recycling workshop is compared with that of his workers.
He, too, is trying to forge a future for his family but does so at the expense of others like Yi-Jie.
The film was selected to feature at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017. At the 2017 Millennium Film Festival, Plastic China was the recipient of the Best Film on Sustainable Development award.
In July 2017, China banned the import of foreign recyclables. Plastic China is widely recognized as having raised awareness around the issue, bringing it to the government’s attention.
2. From the Waste up: Life Without Plastic
From the Waste up: Life Without Plastic, 2014 documentary was written and directed by Taina Uitto.
The film follows families in Vancouver, Canada, as they try to change their plastic usage habits. They follow a plastic-free challenge, which requires them to live their lives without using a single piece of plastic.
The families empty their homes of all plastics. From there, they refuse the offer of any plastic. If they do use any plastic, they are required to collect it. Sharing the plastic-free challenge is something else participants must do.
The film’s subjects are forced to examine the convenience of plastic in contrast with its harmful impact on the environment.
They also come to terms with how plastic drives consumerism and how their plastic usage has affected the world around them.
The year-long journey the families undertake is thought-provoking, especially as it documents the positive changes in the families’ plastic consumption patterns.
As they abandon single-use disposables, their outlook on plastic waste changes dramatically during filming.
3. Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The film documents Angela Sun’s trip to view the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a drifting island of plastic waste.
Lying between the shores of Hawaii and California, it is the largest accumulation of plastic waste in any of the world’s oceans and seas.
Plastic Paradise highlights the way that plastic consumerism has caused the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to grow. Interviewing experts and activists in the field, Sun brings to light the environmental impact of ocean pollution.
In doing so, she dispels the notion that our plastic waste vanishes as soon as we dispose of it.
Plastics do not disappear. Instead, the wind up in our oceans, and are a threat to marine species that encounter them. Plastics are destroying coral reefs, which are marine animals’ habitats. Even the fish people eat is tainted with plastics, the film reveals.
The film won 11 awards in 2013 and 2014. These include a Gold Award at the California Film Awards in 2013.
Plastic Paradise was officially selected for screening at seven film festivals, including the 2013 Boston Film Festival. Michael Moore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jean-Michel Cousteau featured in this eye-opening documentary.
4. A Plastic Ocean
Filmed over a four-year period, A Plastic Ocean is a no-holds-barred documentary about ocean pollution. The consequences of a failure to reduce plastic usage and recycle plastic waste show the extent to which plastics harm the oceans and their inhabitants.
The film follows scientists as they study the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Their studies show that ocean water eventually breaks plastics down into tiny particles called microplastics.
The microplastics affect the food supply of marine animals as they consume them. The toxic chemicals used in the production of plastic products remain in the fatty tissues of seafood.
These toxins find their way into the stomachs of humans. The team that worked on the film included Jo Ruxton, a producer who decided to make the film after she saw the gyre for herself. Director and journalist Craig Leeson joined her.
Dr. Lindsay Porter, a dolphin and whale expert, was also involved. Freediving champion, Tanya Streeter joined the cause.
Dr. Bonnie Montleone had studied other gyres and wanted to see if this one contained the same microplastics. In 2017, the film won nine awards, including Best Feature Film at the Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival.
5. Bag It – Is Your Life Too Plastic?
Released in 2010, this film was directed by Susan Beraza. It documents the investigation conducted by Jeb Berrier.
He was examining the effects of plastic bags on the environment. Berrier chose to forego the use of plastic bags.
From the beginning, Bag It aims to educate viewers about the dangers of plastics, especially in the oceans.
Berrier works with scientists who determine that microplastics outnumber plankton in the oceans. This alarming statistic is shown to kill about 100,000 marine animals, including birds, each year.
The harmful effects of Bisphenol A and phthalates show that plastic harms both people and the environment.
Berrier examines the links between plastic pollution and conditions such as diabetes, male infertility, and attention deficit disorder.
While recycling is advocated in the film, the main focus is on getting people to stop using plastic entirely.
The film discourages single-use disposables, citing them as a significant source of plastic pollution. Bag It was the recipient of the Best of Festival Award at that year’s Blue Ocean Film Festival.
6. Divide in Concord
Divide in Concord documents the debate around banning plastic water bottles in the town of Concord, Massachusetts.
Home the first shot that started the American Revolution in 1775, Concord faces a conflict of an entirely different nature.
Spearheading the campaign to ban single-use disposables like plastic water bottles, is Jean Hill. In her 80s, Hill is determined to lobby the city council to enact a bylaw banning them.
Hill faces fierce opposition, despite having substantial evidence to support her cause.
She makes passionate speeches at council meetings about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and how plastic water bottles have contributed to it.
She even goes as far as calling individual residents of the town to discuss the matter.
Hill’s determination is met by pushback from residents who don’t support her cause. The International Bottled Water Association gets involved, knowing that there could be a snowball effect in towns around the world if Hill’s proposal is approved.
Adriana Cohen, a model and celebrity publicist, uses her platform to bring the issue to the nation. Cohen vehemently opposes banning plastic water bottles.
Kris Kaczor directs this film, following Hill’s campaign until it reaches its tense conclusion.
The film was released to critical acclaim, winning praise from well-known personalities like Michael Moore.
7. Plastic Planet
Directed by Werner Boote, Plastic Planet takes the viewer on a journey around the world to discover the effects of plastic on the environment and its inhabitants.
The gyres or garbage patches of the Pacific Ocean feature in the film showing the devastating impact of ocean pollution.
Boote also traveled to the Sahara Desert in Morocco, a factory in China, and the peaks of Europe’s Alps.
A team of scientists helps Boote explain the dangers of plastics and how they affect the human body. The experts come from the fields of genetics, biology, and pharmacology.
All their evidence points to the fact that plastics are harmful. They also postulate about the potential effects of today’s plastic usage on generations to come.
Plastic Planet is a powerful plea to the citizens of the world to rethink their use of plastic given the health and environmental perils it causes.
Released in 2009, Plastic Planet won the Best Documentary Award at the Romy Gala in Austria in 2010.