Consider this common image. How many times do you go into a grocery store and see this?
And how many times do you see a plastic bag littered in the city?
For my project this semester, I plan to make a short informative documentary (my estimate is 5-7 mins) about the world of plastic that we live in. This is a current local issue because NYC has recently passed a bill to tax plastics bags. While it is to be implemented by October 1st 2016, stores will not be held accountable until April 2017.
The big question is: How are people reacting and what does it say about plastic in our society? What are our roles as individuals and communities in the world of plastic?
I have been researching and intrigued by the impact of plastic on our natural world since last year when I learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
I have worked on a few different art pieces about it in the past, but the issue always seems so much bigger then I can explain. For this reason, I am excited to hone in on this localized effort that will impact me, you, and all of us restless New Yorkers.
1960: Cellopast and the “T-shirt plastic bag”
I will briefly go over the history of the plastic bag and how it poured its way into the United States. The bags are made from high-density polyethylene, or No. 2-type plastic, which was created in 1953. Before this, paper was the common bag of choice.
A Brief History of the Plastic Bag
1977: Mobil Chemical starts producing their own and running and aggression campaign to push them into society.
Hmmm… I wonder why Exxon?
1979: The U.S. is introduced to plastic bags.
1982: Kroger and Safeway start using them. The transformation is beginning.
1985: The Society of Plastic Engineers’s Newark Section meet in New Jersey to discuss its cost. They find that it is cheaper then paper. (1000 plastic bags = $24 // 1000 paper = $30
By now 75% of supermarkets offered plastic bags. Interestingly enough, only 25% of consumers were interested. But after Mobil worked to change that, a decade later, plastic bags were now used 80% of the time.
After discussing Exxon’s efforts, I will begin to question WHY Exxon would be interested.
I will string facts into my documentary. Many of the ones listed in this article will be included:
The fact this website is lacking, though, involves its production buddy: OIL.
–> About 8% to 10% of our total oil supply goes to making plastic. That is 12 million barrels of oil a year just in the U.S.
MATH: An average American throws away about 10 bags a week. That’s 520 bags a year–a fuel equivalent of 60 miles of driving. (And there’s 300 million people!)
This conversation about taxing or banning plastic bags has begun in other countries since the early 2000s. Below is a list of countries that ban it:
United State cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Portland, Austin, Santa Fe and localities in Hawaii. And NOW, New York City is beginning the question:
Here’s an Article explaining the nature of the tax in NYC. I will be briefing through these impacts in my Documentary as well.
In NYC, the conversation right now is about $$$. Albany posed the question: How will this impact the incomes of the consumers? This pushed the tax farther.
For the months that the bill has been pushed farther, I intend to make a graphic representing how many bags have been produced and wasted in the city since. This is based on Bag It NYC’s fact that NYC disposes of 9.7 billion carryout bags per year.
I will use voice over to explain the facts and history of plastic bags. I will overlay historical videos of plastic and news coverage (like listed above) as well as graphics to pinpoint my thoughts. I will also go out into NYC and shoot the plastic trash on the streets, trees, and water.
I want to track the lifespan of a plastic bag. As exemplified in this 15second animation I will be making, the bag will travel into the trash and find its way into the ocean where it will be eaten by the wildlife
I want to track the lifespan of a plastic bag with real footage as well. I am currently looking into filming at a plastic manufacturing company and landfill, but my locations set in stone right now would be a grocery store > NYC trash can > NYC river (most likely the East River) > NYC beach (Coney Island)
I would also take a timelapse of all the plastic bags my friends and I collectively have under our sinks. During the time-lapse I will detail the amount of time it took to acquire all of these and from how many individuals they came from.
WHAT WE CAN DO:
The end of the Documentary will talk about when the tax will be implemented in NYC and offer solutions to how consumers can get cheap reusable (or even FREE) bags. It will also detail the other ways that they can reduce their use of plastic.
I plan to start editing by early November to truly solidify these ideas. Only in the editing room can my story and all of the structure come together.