Trashed – No place for waste


MBA Polymers’ founder and president, Dr. Mike Biddle had a starring role at the Environmental Film Festival at Yale (EFFY) earlier this month as he sat on an expert panel following a screening of Candida Brady’s innovative new film ‘Trashed’.

Brady – a well-established British campaigning journalist who has long supported the innovative work of MBA Polymers – made the documentary to explore the issue of how our appetite for consumption is wreaking havoc across the globe. The ambitious film follows Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons as he travels the world in an attempt to understand the environmental impact of the rubbish we produce, and explores what we can do to halt the damage that is being done to the Earth.

The damage our ever-increasing consumption is doing to our planet is shown explicitly in the film. As a relatively inexpensive material, plastic is ubiquitous, highly disposable, and is rarely recycled appropriately. Each year over 58 billion disposable cups, billions of plastic bags and 200 billion litres worth of water bottles are thrown away, doing incalculable harm to our environment.

With a keen eye for the dichotomy between the beauty of the planet and the damage being done to it by the waste we’re producing, the film visits an array of countries which have one thing in common; they’re being destroyed by trash. We see vast landscapes in China which are covered in tons of rubbish, observe how the Ciliwung River in Indonesia is now barely visible under an ever-mounting tide of plastic and witness the way in which the Lebanese city of Sidon’s shoreline is littered with medical waste, household trash and toxic fluids which tumble from coastal rubbish dumps into the sea.

Health problems our trash habit is creating

The film also discusses the very real health problems our trash habit is creating, as it explores how fish are eating the pollutants from these discarded plastics, and how by eating these fish we too are absorbing these dangerous toxins.  It also examines how ‘latent’ poisons are being released as the polar ice caps melt, a process accelerated by the short term solutions that are being used to manage existing waste, such as incineration.

The film is the result of two years of painstaking research and investigation by Candida Brady, who commented: “As a lifelong asthmatic I have always been interested in the effects of pollution. But it was meeting an environmental doctor – who saved my life – that opened my eyes to the direct effects the environment has on our health.”

Despite the grim subject matter being investigated, the overall message of the film is optimistic as Irons meets individuals, businesses and Governments who are providing solutions. He meets individuals who have changed their own lifestyles so that they produce virtually no waste, explores how anti-waste legislation is encouraging behavioural change and visits a city that has become virtually waste free.

The final film to be shown at the festival, Trashed proved hugely popular with the audience, who asked a range of thought-provoking questions about how some of the solutions discussed in the film can be implemented, and what we as individuals can do to less our personal impact on the environment.

Viewing our waste as a valuable resource

Speaking about his appearance at the festival, Dr. Biddle commented: “What appealed to me about this film is that it does show the significant problems we face in managing the huge amounts of waste humanity generates, and that dealing with these problems requires concerted efforts on many fronts.  Most importantly, we must start viewing our waste like the mix of valuable resources it is and recovering these resources for re-use rather than discarding them in irresponsible ways that damage our ecosystem.

Furthermore, if we don’t re-use our precious resources, we must go to ever greater extremes to mine the materials or drill for the petrochemicals we need for the rapidly growing global demand of the products we use everyday.  And recycling most materials, such as metals and plastics, saves enormous amounts of energy and CO2 generation compared to producing them from virgin raw materials.

“At the moment – and as the film clearly shows – we are simply not doing enough to recycle plastics. Of the 250 billion kgs of plastics produced annually on a global basis, less than 10 per cent of these plastics from complex waste streams are recycled. In comparison, over 90 per cent of metal is recycled. As plastic is more valuable than steel on a cost per weight basis, this disparity makes no environmental or economic sense.

“To really make full use of advances in the field of recycling plastics, wholesale change needs to take place, whether it is big businesses doing more to ensure the products they produce can be effectively recycled at the end of their lifespan, or individuals ensuring they’re recycling their plastic waste to the best of their abilities.

“It’s my ambition to stop all waste going to landfill or being incinerated. The technology to do this is there, and it’s getting better all the time. We just need to make sure we’re using it, and that domestic recyclers have access to waste streams for above-ground mining of materials and a level playing field to operate, otherwise these materials will continue to be exported to take advantage of what I call environmental arbitrage’ – exporting our complex waste to countries where the environmental and human health and safety standards, and thus the costs, are lower.”

The film has already gained international attention. It received official selection for the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and the trailer alone has received over a million views online. Trashed was released on DVD on Earth Day (April 22nd).

The DVD is available to purchase from here

For more information about the film click here