Campaign film against UK's plastic waste exports - 2021
Directed by Jorik Dozy & Sil van der Woerd
Wasteminster is a uniquely original depiction of what would happen if the plastic waste the UK exports each day was instead dumped on Downing Street. Voiced by two of Britain’s best impressionists, Jon Culshaw and Matt Forde, the animation is intended to raise a smile at the impressions of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, and raise awareness of the plastic pollution crisis the UK is creating overseas as well as putting pressure on the government.
Directors Jorik Dozy & Sil van der Woerd
“We didn’t want to put words into Boris’s mouth so we went through hours of interviews and speeches by Boris and the government where plastic pollution and the environment were discussed and quotes were extracted. All statements in the film were made by Boris and the government.”
Globally, many rich first world countries such as the USA, Germany, Australia and the UK export huge quantities of their plastic waste to third world and developing countries. The plastic that is carefully washed and sorted for recycling by the people is being shipped off to other countries where much of it ends up illegally dumped or burned, poisoning local people and polluting oceans and rivers.
The UK exported 688,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste in 2020 which equates to an average of 1.8 million kilograms a day. It is illegal to export plastic waste unless it is recycled or incinerated in an energy-from-waste plant but investigations have revealed evidence of UK plastic being dumped and burned in the countries the UK exports the most plastic waste to, such as Turkey and Malaysia.
Plastic waste from industrialized countries is literally engulfing communities in Southeast Asia and other countries, transforming what were once clean and thriving places into toxic dumpsites. It is the height of injustice that countries and communities with less capacity and resources to deal with plastic pollution are being targeted as escape valves for the throwaway plastic generated by the first world.
Greenpeace is leading the charge to put pressure on the UK government to enact the Environment Bill, and use the powers within it to ban plastic waste exports. The campaigners say this should start with an immediate ban on all exports to non-OECD countries, like Malaysia, and mixed plastic waste to OECD countries, like Turkey. Greenpeace is calling for a complete ban on all plastic waste exports by 2025, and for the government to also set legally-binding targets to reduce single-use plastics by 50% by 2025.
Greenpeace UK political campaigner, Sam Chetan-Welsh
“The plastic we carefully wash and sort for recycling is being shipped off to other countries where it overwhelms their waste systems and much of it ends up illegally dumped or burnt, poisoning local people and polluting oceans and rivers. The government could put a stop to this but so far Boris Johnson is only offering half measures. We need a complete ban on all plastic waste exports and legislation to make UK companies reduce the amount of plastic they produce in the first place.”
We believe that comedy can be a powerful tool to help tell some of the saddest stories in our world. That's why we created mannequin versions of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove that represent them, but that also introduce some distance to these real politicians. After all, they are only dummies. Our intention was not to ridicule politicians, but to place their dummy-personas in a direct conflict with the invisible consequences of their own actions.
We hope that this film helps to make critical big data about humanity's impact on our planet more relatable, and that it lifts the veil of a reality thus far unseen.
To visualize how much trash the UK exports daily, we started with the latest real world data. In 2020, the UK exported an average of 1.8 million kilograms of plastic waste every single day.
We researched the most common items that make up plastic waste, which resulted in 150 different pieces of plastic trash, mostly household items. This ranged from plastic shopping bags to pieces of styrofoam, Coca Cola bottles, detergent bottles, snack food bags, to take-away food containers, coffee cups, etc. We 3d modeled and textured each item. For every plastic bottle, bag and milk or yoghurt container, various crushed or damaged versions were made as well to add to the realism and visual variety.
Nina Schrank, senior campaigner at Greenpeace
“The dedication and outstanding technical ability that has gone into this animation is phenomenal. We’re so grateful for the creativity of Studio Birthplace and Park Village, the ecological ethos of directors Sil & Jorik, and the CGI skills of Method & Madness. This powerful film will show people the shocking truth about what happens to plastic the government tells us is being recycled. And who better to enlist for the voiceovers than impressionists from the legendary Spitting Image, the impeccable voice talents of Jon Culshaw and Matt Forde.”
Next, we researched the average empty weight of each of the 150 items that we created. Reflecting on findings from the "Everyday Plastic" project by Daniel Webb and Dr. Julie Schneider, we fine tuned the balance between all plastic items. We concluded that it takes an average of 37 plastic items to make up 1 kilo of plastic waste. That's a total of 67.7 million items to make up the UK's daily export of plastic waste.
Working with the talented team at Method & Madness under leadership of CG Director Alex Scollay, CG Generalists Pilipino Reyes and Abdul Rahman built a digital Downing Street set using satellite imagery onto which we unleashed a computer simulation. To define the actual size of the daily pile of plastic waste, we first combined 1,000 plastic items into a single, large ball. Scollay then dropped 67.7 thousand of those balls onto our digital Downing Street set, giving us a realistic representation of the actual daily volume. Note that the pile that we created uses uncompressed plastic waste, similar to how you would throw it away for recycling. When plastic waste is exported, it is compressed, reducing the size, but not the number of items or their weight.
The image below is the result of this simulation:
To create the avalanche of plastic engulfing Boris and Downing Street, a special software called ‘Tyflow’ was used. This application is able to calculate millions of items interacting with each other in a physically accurate manner. Hundreds of gigabytes of data were exchanged between artists working on the project in different locations across the world due to the pandemic. In total, the two minute film required roughly 14,600 hours of render time, or 20 months, to create the final shots. The CO2 emitted by our render farm was compensated for.
Help Greenpeace in pressuring the UK Government to stop these illegal exports.
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