Studio Birthplace brings another powerful message to life. This time collaborating with Greenpeace UK on “Wasteminster”, an animation short film that visualizes the UK’s daily waste export in true scale by literally dropping it on 10 Downing Street and Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he delivers a passionate speech on the issue of plastic pollution and the damage being done to the environment. The film aims to hold Boris Johnson and the UK government to account for the plastic pollution crisis the UK is creating overseas.
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.
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.
In 2020, The UK exported 688,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste which equates to an average of 1.8 million kilograms a day.
Wasteminster reveals the stark contrast between the bold promises the UK government has made about reducing the environmental impact of plastic, with the reality that aside from bans on microbeads, cotton buds, stirrers and straws, they have done very little. Significant reforms have been delayed multiple times.
We see the Prime Minister outside 10 Downing Street speaking to the press about being a ‘global leader in tackling plastic pollution’ while a barrage of plastic starts to pour down from above. The animated plastic creates a surge that floods Downing Street, lifting Boris Johnson and Michael Gove and startling Larry the cat and some Downing Street pigeons. The film then cuts to real footage of plastic waste that has been dumped and burned overseas, to illustrate the devastating effects that UK plastic waste exports can have, disproportionately affecting the Global South.
To show the enormous volume of plastic waste the UK is dumping on other countries, Studio Birthplace collaborated with UK production company Park Village, and CGI partners Method & Madness to build an exact digital replica of Downing Street using library photographs and satellite imagery in incredible detail, right down to the light fitting. CG Director Alex Scollay and his team used the power of a bespoke VFX data simulation, high-end CGI, and modeling to create the dynamic flow of 1.8 million kilograms of plastic, with the individual items of plastic interacting with each other in a physically accurate manner thanks to ‘Tyflow’ software.
Directors Sil & Jorik, at Studio Birthplace, said “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.”
Sam Chetan-Welsh, political campaigner at Greenpeace, said “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.”
Greenpeace is calling on the 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.