“Plastic China,” is an insidious movie much like the plastic that pervades our lives, and pollutes our planet.

Plastic is ubiquitous worldwide, but nowhere is the never-ending tide more apparent than in China, the world’s biggest importer of plastic waste.

China receives tens of millions of tons per year of plastic waste from Japan, Korea, the United States and other developed countries.

As the April selection of the Salem Progressive Film Series, “Plastic China” gives a powerful and poignant look at the end point of all that plastic.

We witness the cost of this waste through the eyes of a family living and working in a typical rural plastic waste household-recycling workshop.

The main character is 11-year-old Yi-Jie who longs to go to school, but can’t because her family can’t afford it.

Instead, she works in the recycling plant and takes care of her younger sibling, amid the mounds of towering plastic bottles and bags. Her education and knowledge of the outside world comes through the piles of waste she lives among.

“Plastic China” shows the lives of those who recycle plastic waste are ones of poverty, disease, pollution and profound waste.

The plastic is such a part of their environment nearby sheep can’t help but eat it as they graze. When the butcher cuts the animals open their stomachs are full of plastic, one man says in the film.

Plastic is surely a major environmental problem. More than 300 million tons of plastic is produced each year, the majority of it for single use, such as plastic bags and cups, according to Plastic Oceans.

Our disposable way of life means that at least 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into the oceans each year.

Following the film, two speakers will talk about the need to make major changes in our practices and attitudes toward disposable products.

Local environmentalists and Salem Progressive Film Series board members will also talk about efforts to implement a ban on plastic bags in Salem, similar to the ones in Portland, Eugene, Corvallis and Ashland.

Further, the film series will issue a “Plastic Challenge,” providing people with a sheet listing more than a dozen ways to reduce the use of plastic. In September when SPFS starts up again, people can report on their progress. A prize will go to the person who has reduced the use of plastic the most.

One speaker at the film, State Director of Environment Oregon Celeste Meiffren-Swango, said people must move away from the convenience of single use items.

While recycling and reusing is good, the most important step is to reduce the amount of plastic manufactured and consumed, she said.

“Nothing we use for 10 minutes should pollute our environment for hundreds of years,” she said.

The film’s second speaker, Marion County Waste Reduction Coordinator Alan Pennington, will give a historical overview of the plastic crisis and how we got to where we are today. The county will also offer practical information on reducing plastic, and changing our lifestyles.


Plastic China

7 p.m., Tuesday, April 17

Grand Theatre
19 1 High St. NE, Salem, $5
Salem Progressive Film Series