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Movie Review: Documentary “The Story of Plastic” is an Eye-Opener to the Harsh Reality of Plastic Pollution

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – It was about 15 years ago when Stiv Wilson picked up a plastic bottle on a random beach in America. Such an occurrence isn’t unusual in this day and age — as people are used to seeing plastic in the beach or the ocean — but what made this encounter significant for Wilson was the fact that the plastic bottle had Chinese characters on it. This is what would become the incident that made him want to create a documentary on plastic pollution – “The Story of Plastic”.

How could a bottle from China travel all the way to the shores of America? And how could trash travel thousands of kilometers and not be damaged in any way? These are just some of the questions that are answered in The Story of Plastic, a documentary about plastic pollution that Wilson started. 


While finding that plastic bottle from China was the inciting incident that made Wilson realize just how big of an issue plastic pollution is, his resolve to create The Story of Plastic came later on when he visited the Philippines. 

It was in Smokey Mountain, one of Manila’s garbage dumps, that Wilson saw people mining the landfill for things they could sell. While this is something that Filipinos see on the streets often, the image was new for Wilson. It was a shock for him to see that people were living in Smokey Mountain, and were sifting through the piles of trash to earn money. 

“These are very foreign images to me as a privileged person from the United States at that time, and I resolved in that moment to make this film — The Story of Plastic,” Wilson shared in his opening remarks at the documentary’s special screening in the Philippines. “I understood plastic as an ocean issue, I didn’t understand it from a human rights issue. I didn’t understand it from a developing world standpoint.”

The Story of Plastic traces the history of plastic from then till now, and explores its life cycle from how it’s created to where it eventually ends up. In essence, the film reveals the ugly truth behind plastic pollution (e.g. systematic issues are being ignored in favor of individualistic mindset), and shows how ineffective plastic recycling actually is (e.g. only 2 percent of plastics are being effectively recycled). 

The documentary emphasized the need to look at root causes, because the environmental effects of creating plastic is often overshadowed by the end of the plastic’s life — with it becoming garbage. The media coverage of plastic pollution in our world puts stress on the individual to live a zero-waste life, to discard products with plastic packaging in favor of environmentally-friendly options. However, plastic is not really the fault of the individual, but the fault of the companies and manufacturers of these plastics. According to the film, plastics are simply fossil fuels finding a new form so they are not driven demand, but by supply. 

The Story of Plastic is a tell-all on plastic pollution. One that is a must-see for people to understand where the problem of plastic really lies. While there is still no set date for the movie’s release, Wilson and the people behind the documentary are working together with Break Free From Plastic on making it accessible for educational purposes within the next 2-3 months. 

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