PSA encouraging plastic packaging recycling featured at the Brooklyn Film Festival

By: 
June 03, 2013

A two-minute animated public service announcement (PSA) covering the growing issue of plastic pollution in the oceans is currently being screened at the Brooklyn Film Festival.

The PSA "The Great Plastic Purge," was created by motion design studio leftchannel for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

For the PSA, leftchannel opted for character animation and went for a 1950s inspired "after school special" to put together both what they call an "entertaining yet informative public service announcement that serves as a call to action for viewers to 'reduce, reuse and recycle' plastic packaging."

Leftchannel says that the NRDC approached the design studio to translate the complex issue of plastic pollution to a visual platform with a positive message; the team was tasked with creating a concept and script that avoided the usually negative tone found in most environmental PSAs. Rather, they harnessed the studio's abilities to marry 2D and 3D character animation with motion design to inform viewers in a positive way, the company stated.

"Our goal was to remind people how important this issue is, without giving the impression that they were being criticized or that we were trying to scare them," Executive Creative Director and President Alberto Scirocco said.  "Americans have been recycling plastics for a long time, but the current recycling programs aren't working anymore and NDRC wanted a new approach - one that informs and entertains in a constructive manner."

The PSA opens with a shot of a young boy happily ripping open a birthday present that's wrapped in numerous layers of plastic, all of which he throws away. From there the piece follows the packaging from the boy's home to the ocean floor, while a chipper voice-over informs about how Americans waste $8 billion a year due to plastics making it into the nation's waterways. The PSA also tasks plastic packaging manufacturers to come up with solutions to waste issues such as light weighting and taking on "their fair share of responsibilities of what becomes of the material."

This project presented several challenges. According to Schoener, from a story telling perspective, effectively illustrating why the system was broken was challenging.

"We had to first understand it ourselves, then communicate it in a way viewers could easily connect with and understand," Schoener said.

Scirocco said the challenge was to take a bleak story and turn it into an optimistic one.

"Overall, the animation needed to address three main points in a memorable, engaging manner," he said. "It needed to bring awareness to the issue, suggest that manufacturers be held responsible for coming up with innovative packaging solutions, and get consumers to take action to reduce, reuse and recycle."

It's interesting the Brooklyn Film Festival seemed to be impressed enough with the PSA to showcase it during the festival. Those in the industry are fully aware of plastic packaging pollution, but also know that many of the materials are easily recyclable. So maybe the PSA can help drive the dialogue of plastic packaging recycling into a mainstream platform.

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