Sorry Barbie, but it turns out that a life in plastic is not so fantastic after all.
On Wednesday, Nov. 9 in Cole Cinema, the Center for Study of Democracy, the League of Women Voters, and the Environmental Studies Department co-sponsored the showing of “Bag It,” a documentary by Jeb Berrier that investigates plastics and their effect on our waterways, oceans, and even our bodies.
The event opened with a few words from representatives of each sponsor. The Center for Study of Democracy’s Michael Cain opened by reminding us of what we can do on a local level, and that the “small things matter.” Next was the Programs Director of the League of Women Voters’ Pat Dunlap, who noted the statistic that “60,000 plastic bags are used every five minutes in America, and most of them are thrown away.”
Berrier, who describes himself as “an average guy” and “not what you consider a tree hugger,” began the documentary by explaining the affect of plastic bags and other plastics on our world.
The movie gave alarming statistics about the use of plastic like the fact that “an estimated 12 million barrels of oil is used annually to make the plastic bags that Americans consume,” Berrier explained. “These bags often wind up in waterways or on the landscape, becoming eyesores and degrading water and soil as they break down into toxic bits. Their manufacture, transportation, and disposal use large quantities of non-renewable resources and release equally large amounts of global-warming gases.”
Countries around the world have started to take action, however. According to Berrier, China banned ultra-thin plastic bags in 2008, Modbury, England also banned plastic bags, and Ireland placed a fee on them, in which all cases were extremely effective in reducing plastic use. Cities in the US have also risen to fight plastic bag use. San Francisco has banned plastic bags. Other cities considering bans or fees include Austin, Boston, New Haven, Baltimore, Phoenix, and Annapolis.
Not only do plastic bags cause major issues, but also all other single-use plastics including water bottles, coffee cups, take-out containers, and plastic utensils make for non-biodegradable waste that builds up in landfills and contaminate our environment including oceans.
In the Pacific Ocean, created by currents in the water, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has become what Berrier referred to as a “plastic soup” that is in the ocean for animals to eat, which kills them. Because the plastic only breaks down into smaller pieces, marine animals find it easier to swallow. Plastics in the oceans, according to Berrier, have affected more than 260 species thus far.
Not only are these plastics dangerous to the environment, but they may also be harmful to our bodies. Bisphenol A and phthalates, two additives commonly used in plastic, have been studied by scientists and are now proven to be toxic, endocrine-disrupting, hormone level-changing, and disease-causing, according to Berrier. However, these toxics can be avoided by reading labels of plastic products.
Though to tackle this issue would take worldwide effort, Berrier has urged his audiences to be aware of this issue. Also, he challenges them “to go single-use plastic free for a single day. It’s not as easy as you think,” he said.
For more information about the documentary, or to support the cause, visit bagitmovie.com.