“Are you going to the Quiz on Saturday?” my friend Mary asks me.
“No, I’m going to see a Rubbish Film.” Even as this comes out of my mouth, I am aware that this is not a good explanation. “I mean, it’s a film about rubbish. It’s good. I think. I’ve been told it is, anyway.”
What I mean to say is that I’m going to a Community Screening of the “Clean Bin Project” film. Although I’m part of the moderating team of the Lewes Freegle internet based reuse group which has organised the event, it’s another of our mods, Liz, who has done most of the actual organising. I’m just coming along with cakes for the fund raising sale (which we started running last year – Freegle is free to use, but not free to run.) And to be honest, I’m a bit dubious about my choice of activity, since when I look on the internet, I can’t find much information on what this film is about and whether it’s any good.
So now I’ve watched it, this review is partly to help answer these questions.
The film was made by Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer, a couple who decided to have a go at living for a year buying nothing, and producing as little waste as possible. If you look at their blog, you’ll find some background on their thinking behind this – it was conceived as a challenge and an experiment. Grant and Jenny explain early on that they are a competitive pair and the idea of making a competition out of it spurs them both on.
The rules are:
– No buying material goods
– No producing waste (ie all packaging must be recycling)
– Take responsibility for your waste (ie if you are out and about, take everything home to compost or recycle)
It’s fun and interesting seeing the everyday challenges of this. However, where the film really takes off is where it hooks in with the work of the internationally acclaimed artist, Chris Jordan
Chris was taken with the idea of what rubbish looks like from afar.
Here is one of the first of his works that we are introduced to:
The website is clever; from afar, the work is like an impressionist painting. But as you zoom in, you realise that each dot is a plastic bag, and that the total work is made up of 60,000 plastic bags, which is the number used in the US every five seconds.
This one here is my favourite:
because it’s so mathematical and beautiful. And herein lies the disturbing truth, which is that we mostly blind ourselves to the true cost of what our consumerism, because of our desire for the beauty facilitated by what we throw away.
There is no such ambiguity however when the film moves on to photographs Chris has taken:
These are pictures of baby albatrosses who have been inadvertently fed so much plastic by their parents that their digestive systems stop working and they die and decompose.
Grant and Jenny make judicious use of these poignant moments, keeping most of the film light hearted despite the seriousness of the subject matter. But they do question what difference two people can make in the light of what is going on in the world around us. For example, Grant in filming from the middle of a frenzied price slashing session in a shoe store. He is interviewing a shopper, and asking her what she thinks of the fact that she is, er, shopping on World Environment Day…
“It’s OK, I got this tree…” she says, and even as she holds up a little plastic trinket that she has picked up from somewhere, her smile is already fading and frozen.
It made me think about where I am currently on the subject of waste. I used to be much more hardcore about it. I used to make pasta using flour and eggs, because these items came in cardboard packaging that could be composted. Instead of crisps, I used to make my kids potato bhajis for their school lunches and they had home made cakes and bread.
As the years went on, little by little, my habits slipped. The main issue was the fact that they really weren’t that keen on the food. Home made bread makes a great accompaniment for soup, but a really, really bad packed lunch sandwich. And your diet can become quite restricted if you are making your choices around packaging, as I was. And you do wonder what difference your tiny contribution can make.
But… seeing two people produce so little waste less than a bucketful over the whole year) was impressive. OK, it was extreme. But it goes to show that it can be done. And it makes you think – what if everyone could aim for that? Then there would be a difference…
Acknowledging this in the film, one of the messages from Grant and Jenny was that if it all seems too much, then just do one thing to cut down on your waste.
The biggest thing you can do, apparently, is to stop putting your food in the landfill bin, if you haven’t done so already. Methane from rotting food waste is one of the biggest environmental problems to come out of landfill.
“Do you remember those potatoes I used to fry for your lunch box?” I ask my daughter when I get home.
“Yeah. Crisps are better though,” she says.
“They are. But what about the packaging? Every time you eat crisps you have to throw away the packet. And I’ve just been to see this film where…”
She does get it, when I explained it. And it does make her think.
“It might not be crisps,” I say. “But what if you gave up one thing, made one choice, that would make a difference?”
It comes down to choice. We like choice. We like the choice, of flavours, of shapes, and we like the choice to be in the here in now. As my daughter proves, if it’s our own choice to give something up, and not a choice made by someone else, we will like that decision more.
The film was well received by those who attended the screening and I think it made us all think seriously about the choices we make.
If you are interested in watching The Clean Bin film, go here, or leave an email address in a comment at the end of this blog for me to contact you through – it may be possible to arrange this through the Freegle organisation.