SM BAY — Environmental watchdog Heal the Bay is using some humor and an Academy-Award winner to put pressure on the state Senate to pass AB 1998, a Santa Monica lawmaker’s ban on single-use plastic bags.
The local organization that promotes safe, clean and healthy coastal waters recently released a satirical mockumentary narrated by actor Jeremy Irons charting the life cycle of a plastic bag.
The comical short, playfully titled “The Majestic Plastic Bag,” tracks the migration of a plastic bag from a grocery store parking lot to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” with Irons’ rumbling voice emulating the dramatic tone of the Discovery Channel’s popular “Life” series, giving the plastic bag a personality.
During the short, the bag is attacked by a maintenance worker at a local park, while another is tormented by a tea-cup yorkie.
The mockumentary takes a disturbing turn at the conclusion, showing marine life strangled by tons of floating plastic in the Pacific.
“Never actually bio-degrading, here the plastic bag can live indefinitely, peacefully co-existing with billions of other petroleum species before breaking into ever tinier plastic pieces, thus completing the plastic cycle of life,” Irons says sarcastically in the film.
Heal the Bay officials created the short to draw attention to the destructive force of plastic pollution in California and beyond.
“Rather than lecturing the audience, we wanted to create a film that would capture people’s attention with humor,” said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay. “At the same time, we saw this as a subversive way to make viewers realize the serious, far-reaching problem of single-use plastic bag pollution.”
Though lighthearted in tone, the short film hammers home the stark reality of California’s plastic bag pollution situation: 19 billion bags are used every year, creating over 123,000 tons of unnecessary waste, costing taxpayers $25 million in cleanup costs a year, Gold said. Less than 5 percent of all single-use plastic bags are recycled, with many ending up as litter and in the ocean as plastic pollution.
The state Senate is expected to take a floor vote on AB 1998 by the end of August. The measure would create a uniform statewide policy for addressing all types of single-use bags. The governor has indicated his support if the bill reaches his desk.
If passed, the landmark bill would make California the first state to ban single-use plastic bags at supermarkets, convenience stores and large retail establishments with pharmacies; limit the distribution of paper bags at these stores to encourage consumers to adopt reusable bags; and require reusable bags to be available for purchase at these stores.
“The big goal and challenge for me was creating a piece that was both entertaining as well as informative,” said mockumentary director Jeremy Konner of Partizan Pictures. “I come from the world of comedy, and I believe strongly in the power of humor as a way of making accessible that which otherwise could be inaccessible, uninteresting information,”
With little to no budget, the entire film project was created solely with donated time and resources — many from Heal the Bay supporters within the entertainment industry who believe in the concept and the cause.
The film was shot on location throughout Los Angeles and is available on the Heal the Bay website, www.healthebay.org, as part of its marine debris education and advocacy work.
Earlier this year, Heal the Bay launched the first part of this campaign with “Trash Your Friends,” an April Fools’ Day prank, in which users could “trash” a website with animated garbage to call attention to plastic bag blight.