On Tuesday evening, the University of Rhode Island’s Office of Sustainability screened the documentary “Plastic Paradise” in Swan Hall’s auditorium.
The documentary screening was part of URI Sustainability Week, an annual three-day event celebrating the passing of the Cooperative Extension legislation to raise awareness for the environment. This year is the legislation’s 100th anniversary.
“Plastic Paradise” focuses on plastic and how it is impacting the world in a negative way.
The documentary was directed by Angela Sun, a native of California who fell in love with the ocean when she was young. After she majored in media and journalism in college, she learned of a mysterious phenomenon known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch located in the North Pacific. She traveled to Midway Atoll where she found out the truth about this mysterious phenomenon.
Once on the atoll, Sun discovered a beach littered with plastic. Not only was there a large pile of plastic that had washed up on the beach, but the sand’s composition had a high amount of plastic material. Plastic was the main focus of the documentary as it noted that the development of the material skyrocketed during World War II.
While plastic may have changed the world and provided a cheap and inexpensive material for people to use in their daily lives, it has one major defining, and rather scary, attribute: it’s virtually indestructible. This raises one major question; after it is thrown out or recycled, where does it end up going?
Well, one of the places it ends up is in the fabled Garbage Patch that Sun was looking for: a small area of the Pacific Ocean that has high concentrations of plastic particles. This is because ocean currents flow in a circular motion and any garbage that ends up in the Pacific Ocean ultimately is moved into a centralized location.
This is not a good thing as the plastic materials in the ocean have been ending up in the stomachs of birds, such as the albatross, that dominate the “plastic beach” on Midway Atoll. The plastic is then transferred into their chicks’ stomachs. It is also harming other marine animals who get caught in the plastic trash, resulting in many of them suffocating to death.
It’s not just marine life that’s being harmed by plastic, as humans are also in danger due to the compound known as Bisphenol A (BPA), which is currently being used in the development of many common plastic objects.
In the documentary, it is shown that even touching something with BPA results in the compound being transferred into the skin, which could result in diabetes, brain disorders and a negative effect on hormones. In fact, the documentary said that 93 percent of all Americans currently have BPA in their system right now.
At this moment, many are working to reduce the use of plastic materials in everyday life. However, it hasn’t been easy. Those who produce plastic have mostly put the blame on the consumers for using it so much. In the film, when Sun interviewed some of the employees working in the plastic industry, a lot of them refused to comment on the situation.
On average, about 1 million plastic bags and 85 million plastic bottles are being used every minute, and plastic is the third largest industry in America behind steel and car manufacturing. 70 cities have banned the use of plastic items.
Sustainability Week will conclude with an open house at the Botanical Garden this (Thursday) afternoon at 4:30 p.m.