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Bag It – by Suzan Beraza – Starz Denver Film Festival

 If we need to be hit over the head again with a dead fish that’s consumed its weight in plastic bits, this is the movie to do it. “Bag It,” directed by Suzan Beraza and narrated by Jeb Berrier, puts a spotlight on one habit that needs to go – our overuse of plastics and in particular, those plastic shopping bags that may look lovely in the movie “Magnolia” but in reality, is toxic in more ways the one.

Berrier takes us through plastic bag 101, proving alarming statistic on the level of consumption (Let’s just say its in the billions) but with humor and free of scolding. Using vintage footage to takes back in time, we learn about what we “survived” before plastic and today, how the U.S., as usual, is trailing all the other countries in the world when it comes to adopting laws and taxes related to plastic bags, with San Francisco and companies like Whole Foods as the exception.

Why? Well, besides having to change personal habits, the U.S. government and lobbyists have been BFFs for some time, and over the years those plastic-making corporations and organizations such as American Chemistry Council (ACC) have wielded their mighty fist to fight. For example, the ACC spent over a million dollars to prevent a bag tax initiative in Seattle. Berrier’s struggle to nail down ACC for an interview is a comedy of errors on their part, as they put him off time and time again…for obvious reasons.

While Berrier notes that styrofoam cups last longer than the statue if David, the reality of this hits home as he and director Beraza realize that this toxic state of plastic affairs not only affects current generations, but future generations, including that of their child.

Putting himself in the position of a lab rat, Berrier uses plastic in the way many do on any given day, including storing food in plastic containers and microwaving processed food in said containers. In the end his blood was tested and confirmed that had his wife followed those practices her unborn child could suffer the consequences, including an impact on a male child’s hormone levels.

One couldn’t have a movie on plastic and not present the amount of plastic floating in the ocean, affecting over 200 species. Since many drains lead to the ocean, approximately 6 million plastic pieces enter the waters every day. The result is a massive “plastic soup” the size of the United States that cannot be easily scooped up or cleaned up.

There are many times in the film where you’re blown out of your seat. The scene of Midway Atoll, a tiny island that is home to the largest population of albatross in the world, is changed radically by toxic waste. Bodies of birds, dead and decaying, are filled with plastic pieces. Because albatross are foragers in the ocean, they bring tons of plastics to the island every year, believing those bits are food and attempting to feed this to their young.

While the U.S. law is “innocent until proven guilty” not only for citizens (although that’s not always the case with individuals in certain income brackets), but for corporations and their products. This is in contrast to European policy and law that says they need to prove their innocent first, or in the case of products, the entity REACH forces corporations to prove their products are safe before they’re used in products.

While the chemical BPA, which has shown to have adverse health affects, has been reduced in plastic products, it still exists on food containment for canned goods and drinks.

In the end, can things change for the better? Berrier, Beraza and their “Bag It” film seems to say “yes.” Changing our personal habits is the first and easiest step. The next is using our power as consumers to influence industries, in the way that parents who are very vocal and wield their own power and outrage online to have BPA removed from children’s products and food containers.

EcoBags, one of the film’s sponsors, sells their own and other brands’ canvas, string, mesh and product bags, neat little drawstring bags for your nuts:

If you’re a DIY kinda person, you can make your own re-suable produce bag from Mother Earth News:


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