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Featured DVD Review: Plastic Planet

May 4th, 2011

Plastic Planet - Buy from Amazon

Werner Boote's grandfather worked in the plastics industry when Werner was a child and he grew up around plastic. While most of us don't have such a direct connection to the industry, most reading this are just as surrounded by plastic. Will Plastic Planet make us wish that we were not?

The Movie

In Plastic Planet Werner Boote travels the world talking to leaders in the industry, as well as those raising the alarm about plastics. He visits Venice, the location of a massive dispute between the workers of a plastic plant and the company running it. He visits the desert where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed, which has the torn remains of plastic bags clinging to every plant. He visits the top of a very tall mountain in Austria to talk about a cheap inflatable plastic globe. He visits one of the largest municipal dumps in the world where the poor pick through garbage for plastic in order to earn $1 a day. He visits the middle of the Pacific where there is a virtual island of plastic floating just below the surface.

Mostly, he talks with those trying to raise the alarm, because the plastics industry is so secretive. Even the names of the chemicals used are trade secrets, so there is no chance for independent safety studies of the chemicals used in the process of making plastics. We do see the results of several studies of how plastics impact the environment, and they are scary.

They are scary enough that I've already started looking through my collection of plastic food containers and recycling the ones that are scratched or cloudy. I think that's the clearest way to express how effective this documentary is. On the other hand, there are a few issues that reduce the impact. Werner Boote's travels tend to be a bit erratic and while we learn about lots of different aspects of the overall problem, we don't spend enough time and any single one to go into great depth, nor do we get a lot of solutions. Also, the plastic globe analogy was a little heavy-handed, but sadly appropriate.

The Extras

There are several deleted scenes including a couple about mass produced plastic toys, more scary science involving hormones, and finally a visit to the Plastinarium. In total, there are 15 minutes of extras scenes. Unfortunately, the longest scene (the end one) has no subtitles. It still has some fascinating visuals.

The Verdict

Plastic Planet is a much better movie than its box office run would indicate and while it would be nice for the film to be a little more focused at times, it is certainly worth checking out. There are not a lot of extras on the DVD, but I think the replay value makes it worth picking up.


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