It all started with a fella named Blair Pollock. I ran into him at the outdoor retail shop where I work. He was asking us if we could help him get in touch with our rep from Patagonia. He wanted some help from Patagucci in helping him tell the story of how right here in the Carolinas that PET plastics recycling is directly tied to creating the fabrics that go into Patagonia products. It was a cool concept…you recycle PET bottles here in the Carolinas…and right here they are transformed into fabric that Patagonia buys for their clothes manufacturing. Blair works in the waste management industry and seemed to have facts about plastics and the recycling world in general coming out of his ears.
He also spoke about this whole big project that was being launched in the Carolinas called Your Bottle Means Jobs. Meanwhile he didn’t know that he was talking to a guy (me!) who had always wanted to tell the story of what happens to a bottle after it goes into the bin. Where does it go next? Where does it end up? I wanted to be a fly on the wall, with a camera, to tell this story.
I will tell you that it was quite the journey. It ended up being a joint project between the Carolina Plastics and Recycling Council, the SC Chamber of Commerce and NAPCOR. I visited 4 different facilities. I filmed in strange old buildings with machines that look like dragons breathing smoke and in newer ones with state of the art machinery. I met people that have been working the floor since before recycling became a “thing”.
I got to dive into the heart of what the realities of recycling plastics really are. It was satisfying, overwhelming and incredibly sobering. When you are standing there looking at how much material enters these facilities…and you think of what would happen to our environment IF we didn’t recycle…it’s honestly horrifying. The sheer scale of how much we use is shocking.
It is though eclipsed by the fact that 70% of the PET that can be recycled in NC never makes it to these recycling plants.
It’s a reality of our lives that we don’t ever “see” unless you set foot into a MRF…a mainstream recycling facility. I actually got palpitations standing there on the raised metal decking and seeing the mountain of combined recycled material. What I presumed was perhaps a weeks worth of material, was unbelievably only the amount that they would process in the next 2-3 hours. I couldn’t believe it. I was fully overwhelmed in every way by the volume of what I saw there. How could there be that much? And this was just one city, just one average sized city’s (Raleigh) worth.
As I next visited the three other facilities, my daughter traveled with me, being a second camera and assisting me in not missing angles and shots.
I wondered how seeing this would shape her view of this industry that goes unseen, this industry that so many espouse being proud of “sure…I recycle!”…yet they have no idea just how critical it truly is and how much work they do for all of us. I also learned how connected recycling is to jobs.
A lot of jobs are created via recycling. When the campaign says “Your Bottle Means Jobs”, they are being literal. It’s just the kind of thing that video should be used for…to tell this kind of story, to have some kind of impact.
I love how storytelling gives your entrance into places you normally wouldn’t ever be allowed…meeting really cool people you never would have met. The people that work at these facilities go to sleep at night with their eyes on the big movements.
This video below is the short version that I concepted, shot and edited. Heck, I even ended up doing the voiceover for the English version. It was quite the learning experience. I will release the longer version soon. And the Espanol version of the short will be released ideally within a week. As with all video…it’s hard to turn so much footage into such a short end product, but that is the fate of anyone creating video or short film. I just sincerely hope that this video and the Your Bottle Means Jobs campaign gains traction. If we can turn that 70/30 split into 100% recycled, that would be amazing and likely…quite necessary.