It’s hard to associate the uber-groomed, aquiline-profiled Jeremy Irons (“Damage,” “Die Hard: With a Vengeance”) with garbage. But in the documentary “Trashed,” which focuses on the problem of global waste, Irons wallows in it. From Lebanon to Iceland and South Wales to Vietnam, Irons strides cities and countrysides to examine what’s going in the Earth’s landfills and incinerators.
“From up here, our planet looks perfect,” Irons intones, to a shot of the Earth viewed from space. The camera then makes a rapid descent onto a landfill, and Irons’ continuing narrative that this is where our consumption habits have taken us strikes home. The Earth is literally choking in rubbish.
Directed by Candida Brady, “Trashed” throws out some daunting facts: 200 billion plastic bottles are thrown out each year. Fifty-eight billion disposable cups are burned in incinerators, creating mass pollution. Irons walks up and down a beach in Lebanon where the blue Mediterranean Sea creates a startling contrast with the garbage dump located just a few hundred meters away. Irons looks truly depressed as he walks around the dump to finally take a seat — on top of a pile of trash. “This is deplorable,” he murmurs, and he almost appears to weep.
In Iceland, Irons visits a dairy farmer whose herding practices and ethics are blameless. But the nearby incinerator has been releasing tons of dioxins into the air, which has contaminated the milk of his cattle. Now the farmer has no choice but to “trash” the product of his livelihood, and the government will do nothing but send over a lawyer and a bit of compensation. But dioxins, we find out later, are an inescapable chemical that “everyone has in their bodies.” We’ve started a deadly cycle of consuming, trashing and damaging — and like a hamster, we just can’t seem to get off this wheel.
“Trashed” may be redundant in parts but it proffers an interesting definition of how the global 1 percent are different from the rest — it all depends on one’s physical proximity to garbage. The richer and more privileged you are, the less you have to think about or deal with it. Meanwhile, half the population of Manila are slum dwellers, many living in shanties built directly onto piles of garbage emitting toxic fumes in hot, black curdles of smoke.
“Out of sight, out of mind,” says one environmental expert, to explain why we’ve let the waste problem get so out of hand. Five minutes into “Trashed,” though, it becomes impossible to look the other way or to put the issue out of mind. Garbage is encroaching upon some of the most treasured and pristine nature spots on the globe, and destroying natural habitats at lightning speed.
If there’s hope, says another expert, it’s in the human capacity for change. “We did it with smoking, and with seat belts,” he says. But confronting trash calls for more than an instinct for self-preservation: It requires awareness and a level of commitment that go beyond personal welfare. Every landfill depicted here attests to the colossal greed and ego of modern man, and the real price of industrialization. See “Trashed,” if only to remind yourself not to reach for a plastic bottle every time you’re thirsty.
For a chance to win one of three pairs of tickets for “Trashed,” visit jtimes.jp/film.’