'Bag It": A terrifying look at waste



3 stars

Wondering why Indiana lawmakers would consider a bill requiring retail stores charge 10 cents for every plastic bag you use? Or why some states ban them all together? What's the big deal about plastic bags anyway?

Jeb Berrier had some of these same

questions when his small town in Colorado decided to start a

competition with a neighboring town to see who could decrease

their use of plastic bags the most.

“I'm an average guy,”

Berrier explains at the beginning of his new documentary film Bag It.

“I'm not what you consider a tree-hugger. I try to be informed.

I try to do the right thing. But I find that it can be a bit

overwhelming at times.”

He must have felt the same way about

working on this film. Because what starts out as an exploration of a

small part of our grocery shopping experience — the plastic bag

— takes him to Asia, the middle of the Pacific Ocean and deep inside

his own body; from plastic packaging to whale guts to chemicals that

shrink penis size.

On March 4, the Epworth United Methodist

Church (6450 Allisonville Road, Indianapolis) will show the film as part of an eco-film double feature, along with

WFYI's Lead Paint: Indiana's Poisoned Children. The event

starts at 7 p.m. and is free to the public, but donations are


The statistics presented in Bag It are, alone, worth

your time. 60,000 plastic bags are used in the U.S. every five

seconds; 2 million plastic water bottles are used in the U.S. every

five minutes; less than 25 percent are recycled; some parts of the

ocean have 40 times more plastic than plankton.

But Berrier does a good job of not

getting all preachy on us, and has fun, while also showing how

single-use products — some of which we might use for only a few minutes — are damaging the environment throughout their entire life cycle.

The film tracks the plastic bag from its creation using

fossil fuels to its journey to the North Pacific Gyre, where a

waste island of plastic and other debris the size of Texas is

floating in the Pacific Ocean. In one scene, a whale floats to shore

and inside its stomach is 19 square feet of plastic.

And there's no easy answer. It's nice

to think you're doing your part by recycling plastic, but what we

find out is that much of the plastic we recycle is exported to Asia.

Some of the most disturbing scenes in the film expose these

“recycling” facilities, where people are sorting through

piles of our plastic waste. They get on their hands and knees to sort

through our trash, and what they can't use is burned. The workers are

paid very little to dig through what we don't want while breathing in

toxic chemicals at the same time. Think of it as another in a long line of sweatshop — this one at the end of the line, not the beginning.

In the end, whether you bring your own

bags or use one plastic bag for every item you buy at the grocery

store, you'll have a better understanding of why Indiana would consider charging 10 cents for a plastic bag — like in

House Bill 1521. After watching this film you'll probably wonder

what's taking them so long. Because ultimately, as Berrier discovers,

that 10 cents a bag is a steal compared to what it's costing our

planet and our health.