This short film by American director Ramin Bahrani (Goodbye Solo) traces the epic, existential journey of a plastic bag (voiced by Werner Herzog) searching for its lost maker, the woman who took it home from the store and eventually discarded it. Along the way, it encounters strange creatures, experiences love in the sky, grieves the loss of its beloved maker, and tries to grasp its purpose in the world. In the end, the wayward plastic bag wafts its way to the ocean, into the tides, and out into the Pacific Ocean trash vortex — a promised nirvana where it will settle among its own kind and gradually let the memories of its maker slip away.
Jenni Jenkins, Story/Sustainability Consultant
I have eliminated the need for most of my disposable items by incorporating reusable items into my everyday life. I bring my own reusable cup for coffee in the morning. I pack my own salad in a reusable container and take my bamboo To-Go Ware with me everywhere. When I have to choose between glass and plastic containers, I always choose glass. I fill up my reusable produce bags at the grocery store and bring them home in a reusable shopping bag. I’ve found that it is actually very convenient to have my own things on hand, and would not want to return to my previous throwaway habits. So much of environmental awareness comes through building self-awareness. This means becoming aware of your every day actions and how they impact the world. The closer we can connect to our landscape and our fellow inhabitants (both human and non-human), the better chance we have to create a sustainable and equitable future for all of the earth’s inhabitants to share.
Years after first learning about this issue I ask myself the same question: To use plastic or not to use plastic? I realize that the answer can’t feasibly be just a clear-cut “no” at this point in time. What has become clear, however, is that we should make and use objects in our world so that they match their purpose. If something is meant to be used for only a short period of time before it is discarded, then it should be able to truly biodegrade completely into the environment or be recycled into materials that retain their initial value.
What the plastics industry needs (and what we can help them do through lobbying for bans on disposable plastics) is creative destruction. Plastic products don’t need to be eliminated from society completely, but we need to make sure that their place in this world conforms to ecological principles and matches the purpose for which we make them. Plastics should be produced sparingly, for important purposes such as medical products or for items that are intended to survive for very long time periods. And plastics should be infinitely recyclable, so that every piece of plastic that is produced can be recycled to produce new products. We can use these materials, if we use them wisely.