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The Story of Plastic  cover image

The Story of Plastic 2019

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Outcast Films, 511 6th Avenue Suite 398, New York, NY 10011
Produced by Deia Schlosberg and Kyle Cadotte
Directed by Deia Schlosberg
Streaming, 95 mins

High School - General Adult
Chemical Industry; Environmentalism

Date Entered: 03/03/2021

Reviewed by Kimberly A. Plassche, Map Librarian, Liaison to Geography, University at Buffalo

For decades the plastics industry has been fooling consumers into believing if they merely recycle plastic packaging, no harm will come from enjoying the benefits of this fantastic product. What do we do when there is nowhere to send the recycling, which is exactly what happened when China banned imports of the waste in 2018? The Story of Plastic features commercials and public service announcements from DuPont, Tupperware and other industry leaders detailing the many wonders of plastic. These are interspersed with interviews with activists, fishermen and recycling center managers discussing the many ways its production and disposal destroy the environment and public health.

This film examines all the benefits and consequences of our reliance on plastic products. No corner of the world is safe from the hazardous effects of the plastic life cycle. Not the United States, from the oil refineries forcing homeowners inside to avoid toxic air pollution in Texas, to the Ohio River Valley where a new pipeline project is in the works despite desperate attempts from property owners fearing explosions. Not Southeast Asia, where residents of the beautiful Manila Bay in the Philippines grapple with plastic packaging overtaking their beaches and fishing nets, and Indonesians desperately try to clear plastic waste from their own waterways. Not India, where low-paid workers endure hours of labor sorting through plastic recycling, where much of it is ultimately incinerated.

The devastation to wildlife and humanity is hard to miss. Seabirds’ abdomens overflow with plastic, fishing nets are filled with approximately 40% waste, five gyres of swirling plastic in our oceans continue to grow, and mountainous landfills overshadow dairy farms. However, this documentary gives us hope. It reminds us that extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs, zero waste initiatives and government action will help us break free from plastic. The film ends on a high note, applauding the European Union ban on single-use plastic cutlery, as well as plastic bag bans in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Seattle, South Korea, Turkey, Morocco, Montreal, Chile and some US states. The onus is placed on corporations, as we are reminded if we ask them to do something voluntarily, they will not do it, so we need to make them accountable now.

The Story of Plastic is an important lesson in the entire life cycle of plastic production and a global call to action. It is highly recommended for academic, public and high school library collections.


Audience Award for Active Cinema, Mill Valley Film Festival (2019); Audience Award for Favorite Documentary Feature, Napa Valley Film Festival (2019); Special Jury Award for Social Impact, Napa Valley Film Festival (2019)

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.