Summary of Plastic Wars (full documentary) | FRONTLINE

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The documentary "Plastic Wars" looks at the environmental impact of plastic and the efforts of the plastics industry to adapt to the growing crisis. The documentary highlights the need for more successful implementation of recycling programs in order to reduce the amount of plastic in the world.

  • 00:00:00 In "Plastic Wars," FRONTLINE and NPR investigate the battle over plastics, looking at how efforts to solve the problem have made it worse. The plastics industry has responded by expanding production of plastic, which is leading to an increase in plastic waste. This plastic waste is often difficult and expensive to recycle, leading to it piling up in landfills and the ocean. As a result, the plastics industry is investing tens of billions of dollars in new plastic plants, creating a plastic boom.
  • 00:05:00 The documentary Plastic Wars focuses on the environmental impact of plastic and its recycling difficulties. It examines how plastic has come to be used in many applications due to its improved performance, but notes that it is not economically sustainable to recycle it in current economic conditions. The documentary also explores how the environmental awareness of the 1970s led to the rise of environmental protests and the development of alternative materials that are biodegradable.
  • 00:10:00 In response to public outcry over pollution and litter, the plastic industry created the Council for Solid Waste Solutions, which hired Ron Liesemer to create a recycling program in the US. While the program was successful in averting bans on plastic products, some industry insiders felt that the plastics makers cared more about selling products than they did about making recycling work.
  • 00:15:00 In the 1980s and 1990s, the plastics industry pressured states to pass laws requiring the well-known recycling symbol, with the number inside it, to be put on plastic containers sold in those states. This created problems for recyclers because the symbol left the impression that all those types of plastics were actually being recycled. Recyclers and the plastic makers couldn't agree on how to change the code, and industry would only switch to a triangle, which recyclers said was too similar to the chasing arrows symbol. Eventually, recyclers and the plastic makers reached an agreement to switch to a square symbol, but by then it was too late.
  • 00:20:00 The documentary tells the story of how the plastics industry came up with a solution to the growing public criticism of their products: spending millions of dollars on advertising to convince people that plastics are a good thing. This worked, and by the late 1990s, plastics became the unrivaled material of choice for consumers. However, as the industry grew more dependent on China for its raw materials, it became clear that the country was not cleaning up its act. In 2018, China stopped accepting imported plastic waste, and the documentary ends with the hope that this will lead to a cleaner, more sustainable future for the plastics industry and the environment as a whole.
  • 00:25:00 The documentary follows the efforts of people in Indonesia and China as they scramble to find new places to recycle plastic after the Chinese recycling market collapsed. Indonesian officials are trying to prevent what happened in China from happening here.
  • 00:30:00 In this documentary, filmmaker Sullivan explores the issue of plastic waste and its effects on the environment. He interviews representatives from different industries, including recycling companies, to learn more about the problem. He also visits areas in the U.S. and Indonesia where plastic waste is being dumped, and discusses the opposition to plastic bans and regulations being proposed in California.
  • 00:35:00 The documentary discusses the challenges of recycling plastic and the oil industry's push for 100% recycling. The main lobbying group for the oil industry is the American Chemistry Council, which is pushing for more education and infrastructure to be built in order to increase recycling rates. However, the industry is facing challenges in achieving this goal, as the traditional recycling system has not kept pace with the production of plastic. In Oregon, two recycling projects from the 1990s are shown - one sponsored by the oil industry and the other by the plastics industry. Both projects were unsuccessful and the machine used in the project was later sold for scrap.
  • 00:40:00 The plastics industry has been spending money on ads encouraging consumers to recycle, but the reality is that recycling is not economically viable and there are concerns about the environmental impact of plastics. Ron Liesemer, a former industry lobbyist, said that the industry's goals have not changed since the '90s and that the crisis passed. He also said that the responsibility for solving the plastics crisis falls on consumers and the industry.
  • 00:45:00 In this video, Sullivan interviews materials expert Allaway about the environmentally harmful effects of single-use plastic products. Allaway argues that consumers have little to no leverage over producers, and that the biggest leverage is with the producers themselves. Allaway also discusses the environmental implications of different plastic products and the challenges of recycling them. He concludes that although America may be able to recycle its way out of the plastic crisis, it will require a concerted effort from all involved.
  • 00:50:00 The documentary, "Plastic Wars," looks at the impact of plastic on the environment, and how the industry is trying to adapt to the Plastic Crisis. The documentary focuses on the efforts of various companies to reduce their use of plastic, and highlights the need for more successful implementation of these efforts in order to reduce the amount of plastic in the world.

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