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Single-Use Planet

A search for the true headwaters of plastic entering the ocean finds more than it bargained for.

A printer-friendly version of this page 59 minutes
SDH Captioned>>

Directed by Steve Cowan
Produced by Steve Cowan, Barry Schienberg
Editing: Steve Cowan, Barry Schienberg
Writing: Steve Cowan, Barry Schienberg
Cinematography: Barry Schienberg
Special Effects: Cameron Harrison
Music: Travis Magrane
Animation: Head Gear Animation
Narrator: Peter Coyote
A Habitat Media Production

"Exposes the disconnect between the public concern with plastic waste and the massive growth of plastic production in the US" Barbara Allen, Prof. STS, VA Polytechnic
Plastic is vital in so many ways to our modern way of life and well-being—but not all forms of it. In search of why more and more single-use plastic debris enters the ocean despite all efforts to recycle, SINGLE-USE PLANET goes upstream to where millions of tons of raw plastic are being made amidst the ruins of America's bygone steel industry in Pennsylvania.

Further upstream, we see the economic and political realities that have boosted the new industry—realities reaching all the way to rural Louisiana where plans are laid to build the biggest plastic plant in the world. Can the powerful industry be persuaded to temper their production of single-use plastic? Our search leads to Washington D.C.—where a federal bill to regulate the industry remains stalled—and finally to France, where the prohibition of campaign donations by corporations may provide a key to the effective reduction of plastic pollution.

Grade Level: 10 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2024     Copyright Date: 2024
DVD ISBN: 1-961192-17-9

"Single-Use Planet brilliantly documents how plastics are forever, their ubiquity rooted in the deadly intersection of the oil and gas and petrochemical industries with powerful politicians, state governments and lobbyists that support, through subsidies and lax regulation, a deadly chemical industry. Whether in in Beaver County, Pennsylvania or St. James Parish in Louisiana, the story is the same: Massive state subsidies, evasion of environmental regulations, cover ups, horrifying ecological harms, and devastating health impacts. Single Use Planet is a powerful portrait of the plastics crisis but also shows how communities, activists, researchers and reformers are fighting to stem the tide."
Michael Watts, Professor Emeritus of Geography, University of California-Berkeley, Author, The Curse of the Black Gold

"This is a timely, accessible film to prompt discussions about grassroots, corporate, and state power in the US today. The film shares striking visuals, humorous cartoon illustrated songs, and firsthand testimony that connects many of the intersectional challenges we face, including corporate influence on politicians, toxic health impacts, job anxiety, and racial discrimination. Single-Use Planet ends on an optimistic note and spotlights community campaigns to break free through bans, alternative packaging, and campaign finance reform."
Phaedra C. Pezzullo, Professor of Communication, Media, and Environmental Studies, University of Colorado-Boulder, Author, Beyond Straw Men: Plastic Pollution and Networked Cultures of Care

"Finally a documentary that makes the connection between the environmental justice devastation of Cancer Alley in Louisiana and the build-out happening in Pennsylvania! Also, one that discusses the economics and not just the environmental impacts. This is a must watch for anyone and everyone, especially if you want to understand the full picture. I hope every politician in every state house and Congress watches this documentary. Only an hour in length but packed with information!"
Dr. Sherri A. Mason, Associate Research Professor and Director of Sustainability, Pennsylvania State University at Erie, The Behrend College

"Many people initially heard about plastic pollution as an ocean pollution or 'marine litter' issue thanks to myths perpetuated by the plastic industry. Plastic Pollution Coalition was founded in 2009 to change the narrative and highlight solutions to this global crisis, showing that plastic pollution affects everyone everywhere. Single-Use Planet captures this critical narrative shift that is now changing the way people understand - and address - plastic pollution and plastic-free solutions."
Dianna Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO, Plastic Pollution Coalition

"Combining interviews, environmental overviews, and engaging animation the film exposes the disconnect between the public concern with plastic waste in the environment and the massive growth of plastic production in the U.S. Single-Use Planet is an authentic lens into communities struggling to limit pollution and environmental harm caused by petrochemical production and natural gas fracking. In examining the constellation of factors in the omnipresence of single-use plastic the film does a convincing job of explaining the powerful political trifecta that residents are up against: elected officials, industry lobbyists, and campaign financing."
Barbara Allen, Professor of Science, Technology, and Society, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Author, Uneasy Alchemy: Citizens and Experts in Louisiana's Chemical Corridor Disputes

"Single-Use Planet provides incredibly extensive coverage of the issues surrounding plastics. It begins with an even-handed discussion of the tensions between local economic development and the environmental and health implications of the types of jobs those facilities create. From there, it focuses on the environmental justice issues surrounding plastics and the fracking activities that provide its feedstock. We see the problems with big money entering politics through lobbying and donations to block any efforts to control manufacturing, and ultimately leads to discussion of the need for campaign finance reform. This documentary can open all these areas for rich discussion and debate in the classroom."
Andrew Hoffman, Professor of Sustainable Enterprise, University of Michigan, Co-author, Flourishing: A Frank Conversation about Sustainability

"A remarkable interrogation of the 'miracle stuff' called plastic. Single-Use Planet explores the complex reality of plastic manufacturing today and gives us insights in what we might do differently in the future. Essential viewing for anyone committed to helping their communities flourish and their environments to thrive."
Imre Szeman, Founding Director, Institute for Environment, Conservation and Sustainability, Professor of Human Geography, University of Toronto-Scarborough, Author, On Petrocultures: Globalization, Culture, and Energy

"Single-Use Planet tells the powerful story of how policymakers sold out the health of communities and the environment for the plastics industry. From compelling footage of politicians and lobbyists to heartbreaking interviews with people living under the toxic cloud of the industry's pollution, this film will help viewers understand why we need to turn off the tap for single-use plastics and - even more importantly - how we can make it happen."
Stephanie Feldstein, Director of Population and Sustainability, Center for Biological Diversity

"Single-Use Planet does a great job of showing another dimension of the plastics problem, emphasizing the link between plastic use and the petrochemical industry producing this material. Viewers are shown the social and environmental impacts that oil extraction, plastic production and plastic use have, and the inequitable distribution of these impacts. This film also showcases how flaws in the United States political system allow industries with negative consequences to communities and the environment to persist and thrive with little resistance."
Erin Murphy, Program Lead for Pollution and Environmental Policy, Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Arizona State University

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DVDs include public performance rights.

DVD Features
SDH Captions for the deaf, hard-of-hearing, and others who benefit from reading the spoken words onscreen, plus scene selection. DVD includes a short 25-minute version.

The Film's Website — packed with useful information for students and activists wanting to dig further into the issue

Awards and Festivals
Best U.S. Documentary, Santa Cruz Independent Film Fest
Best U.S. Documentary, Austin International Art Festival
Award of Distinction, IndieFEST Film Awards
Award of Excellence, Impact Docs
Award of Excellence, Accolade Global Film Competition
Semi-finalist, Hawaii International Film Awards
Colorado Environmental Film Festival
New Hope Film Festival
Blue Water Film Festival

Air Pollution
American Democracy
American Studies
Business Practices
Climate Change/Global Warming
Environmental Justice
Political Science
Toxic Chemicals
Urban and Regional Planning

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Blue Vinyl
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Plastic Paradise
Angela Sun reveals the effects of our rabid plastic consumption as she investigates The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

... more Reviews

"Single-Use Planet is a deep and hopeful film. It cleverly fingers American democracy's toughest sustainability challenge as lobbyists and bought politicians wreak health and environmental mayhem through subservience to utterly unsustainable chemical and plastics industries. Amidst heartfelt stories of injured people and inspiring environmental justice warriors, compelling guidance emerges for escaping the cynical money-first dynamic to a stronger American economy in an environmental Eden."
Terrence Collins, Professor of Green Chemistry, Director of the Institute for Green Science, Carnegie Mellon University

"A critically important film...Single-Use Planet will resonate with those of us who are overwhelmed by the massive quantities of plastic waste in our lives. The filmmakers expertly connect the dots between the fracking industry, which depends on plastic manufacture for a market, the petrochemical industry with its constant innovation of new uses for plastic in everyday products, and the inner workings of our legislative processes which prevent communities from protecting themselves from polluting industry and toxic substances. The film makes clear that the problems associated with plastic, natural gas, and petrochemicals in the contemporary US stem not from nature but from a series of political choices that can and must be reexamined."
Rebecca Scott, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Missouri, Author, Removing Mountains: Extracting Nature and Identity in the Appalachian Coalfields

"Single-Use Planet explores how we may keep the benefits of durable, long-lasting plastics, while removing the blight of single-use plastics and the air and water pollution of petrochemical plants. In its quest to expose the political influence of corporate lobbyists and donors at the expense of community health and ecological well-being, this documentary balances compelling interviews and images with educational cartoons and songs. Single-Use Planet demonstrates how separating politicians from corporate donations and lobbyists may be one significant solution toward ending the production of single-use plastics."
Patricia Widener, Professor of Sociology, Florida Atlantic University, Author, Toxic and Intoxicating Oil and Oil Injustice

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