TRASHED documentary highlights wastefulness

Conservative MP for Richmond Zac Goldsmith, last night (7 February) hosted a screening of a new documentary highlighting society’s growing wastefulness and pointing towards potential solutions to the problem.

Jeremy Irons, Zac Goldsmith, and an audience member at screening of TRASHEDTRASHED sees Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons travel the world, observing how waste is harming different societies – from an unregulated beach-front landfill in Lebanon and a dioxin-emitting incinerator in a remote Icelandic valley, to the rubbish-strewn waterways of Indonesia and the world’s plastic-ridden oceans.

“We’ve made this movie because there are so many people who feel strongly the urgent need for the problem of ‘waste’ and ‘sustainability’ to be addressed”, Irons has explained.

“There is an equally urgent need for the most imaginative and productive solutions to this troublesome subject to be understood and shared by as many communities as possible throughout the world. This is where movies can play such an important role, educating society, bringing ‘difficult’ subjects to the broadest possible audience.”

Speaking before an audience of waste campaigners and industry professionals, Irons introduced the film acknowledging that though waste “is a subject about which [he] knew nothing”, it was useful to be a “man in the street in the same position as the viewer”, seeing for the first time what happens to all the rubbish the world produces.

‘You could define modern society by its wastefulness’

The film opens with the assertion that waste is a little talked about subject, suggesting that nobody knows how much waste we produce worldwide, or exactly what effect on us it has. When introducing the film, the producers asserted they would like to see the ‘niche’ subject of waste put before a much wider audience.

The evening’s host, Goldsmith, concurred, noting that “politically [waste] is a fringe or niche subject, but not in the real world… You could define modern society by its wastefulness – and stupidity”, given how we chose to use our resources.

As with other films about environmental degradation, TRASHED concludes by offering potential solutions to the problem, with Irons – who wears an impressive array of hats throughout – meeting zero waste campaigner and blogger, Rachelle Strauss (number 24 on Resource’s HOT 100 list), popping into London’s packaging-free shop, Unpackaged, and visiting San Francisco, where compulsory recycling has seen the city of 800,000 achieve recycling rates of 75 per cent.

MPs ‘need to be pushed’ to act

After the film, Irons asserted that the solution will not come from waiting for government to act, but from grassroots zero waste movements working from the bottom up. “Politicians never lead, politicians want their job and they do what they think will get them elected”, he said, adding with a nod to Goldsmith, “with all due respect.”

Goldsmith, who lamented the lack of political leadership on the issue several times over the course of the evening, responded: “Levers will be applied by government if there’s enough pressure – and that’s down to you [the public]… MPs are not always your enemy… but they need to be pushed.”

Describing himself as “a backbencher whose job it is to hold government to account”, Goldsmith offered up some scathing critiques of his own party. On the subject of regulating types of packaging, he said: “The government’s allergic to anything sensible in regulation”, adding: “It’s difficult for government to compete with the vast pressure applied by corporations.” And, noting that the list of complaints he has to bring against Chancellor George Osborne is encyclopaedic, he said: “When you have a Treasury that’s micromanaging every other department, it doesn’t work.”

In the absence of government action, the filmmakers are hoping to spread their message to as wide an audience as possible. The film has been screened at Cannes and other festivals and had theatrical releases in Los Angeles and New York. It will be released on DVD on 22 April, but the producers hope that a social movement will grow around the film, and see it gain a more widespread theatrical release.

Learn more about the film on the TRASHED website, and keep an eye out for our exclusive interview with writer and director Candida Brady in Resource 70, out in March.