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We as a society imitate what we see on screen. Whether that be in movies, your favorite Netflix show or even what you see scrolling through Instagram. We often, knowingly or not, mimic the behaviors and actions of those we watch.

By examining 32 of the most popular tv shows airing in 2019 and 2020, researchers at the USC Annenberg Norman Lee Center, in a study commissioned by the Plastic Pollution Coalition, looked at how often single-use plastic was shown on screen. To no one’s surprise, each and every episode showed loads of plastic. 

Single-use plastics such as water bottles, straws, and grocery bags are the largest source of plastic pollution in the world. Every year, more than 30 million tons of plastic is discarded in the US alone. Nearly 99% of plastic is made from fossil fuels which create significant issues for our climate and environment. 

Today we want to share what one organization is doing to change how plastic is portrayed in the entertainment industry. 

Flip the Script on Plastics is an initiative set forth by the Plastic Pollution Coalition to “help the entertainment industry model real solutions to the plastic pollution crisis.” They are using the magic of movies and television to shift the narrative on society’s throwaway culture by showing life without single-use plastic. 

The study showed that an “average of 28 single-use plastic items were shown in each episode”.1 On top of that, “93% of single-use plastic items were not thrown away or disposed of on screen.”2 

We know what you’re thinking, who cares? It’s just tv. In reality, the idea that plastic items simply go away on their own is subconsciously put into our brain. Single-use plastics not shown being disposed of properly contributes to the false narrative of “magically disappearing trash.”

Even when the disposal was being shown, the items were 80% likely to be littered instead of thrown in the trash or recycling bin.

Unfortunately, only 8 episodes out of the entire study included any talk about plastic or related issues.

So… how do we “flip the script?”

The Plastic Pollution Coalition suggests that “instead of portraying the unfortunate reality of excessive plastic use, films and TV shows could help change our society’s throwaway culture by modeling life with less single-use plastic and portraying a healthier, more just future.”

“We are shaped and formed by what we watch. Media has the power to reimagine the world and blaze a trail to a regenerative, reusable, refillable, healthy, thriving plastic-free world for all living beings, if only we commit to act now.”

Dianna Cohen
Co-Founder & CEO,
Plastic Pollution Coalition

The Plastic Pollution Coalition is building a team of actors, writers, and Hollywood elites from all across the industry that are committed to change. This “coalition” is determined to find solutions for the plastic pollution crisis, both on- and off-screen. 

A great number of actors, producers, and influencers are already getting involved. Check out the quotes below! 

“I am excited about Plastic Pollution Coalition’s initiative. I am creating a seminal Green Council to clean up Hollywood and reduce our industry’s carbon footprint. We must be forward thinking and always consider innovations’ long-term impacts on the health of the planet.” 

Fran Drescher, actress
US Public Diplomacy Envoy, founder of Cancer Schmancer,
and president of the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation
of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA)

“It has been many years since we all laughed at the punchline ‘Plastics’ in ‘The Graduate.’ But now it’s no longer funny as we have learned how it is strangling our planet. Movies and TV shows tell stories and model behaviours that have the power to deeply influence popular culture. Through storytelling and on set, this initiative can help transform measurably reduce the use of single-use plastic in the entertainment industry. I am honored to be a part of this work.”

Jack Bender, TV Producer & Director
on Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Lost, and Mr. Mercedes

“Showing the world we need, where fruits and vegetables are free of packaging and other foods and beverages are served in non-toxic, non-plastic reusable materials, is critical. This initiative is an exciting way to shift the popular culture about the role plastic plays in our lives.” 

Mandy Moore, actress, singer and songwriter

“Helping audiences to stop seeing plastic pollution as normal is critical as the world seeks to move away from fossil fuels-of which single-use plastics are made. This initiative couldn’t be more timely as people are realizing the injustice and inequity of plastic pollution and the climate crisis, and world leaders are being pushed to act.” 

Ed Begley, Jr.
Emmy award winning actor and environmental activist

View the report and see what you can do to get involved here:

Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! Do you believe this could be the thing we need for a brighter, more sustainable future?

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