Managing waste in the film industry

Equating to a turnover value of £14.8 billion in 2017, the film industry is an invaluable contribution to the UK economy.
Thorben Wengert,

Whether we choose to have a Netflix marathon, cinema trip out, or a search through the DVD drawer for those old classics, the film industry plays a key role in entertaining nations across the globe.

With a sector so valuable, however, comes complications—one of which being waste management. Consider the amount of recyclable waste that is generated through the hands of these businesses every day. Statistics propose that around 26 million tonnes of waste is produced every year in the UK, 12 million of which is recycled while 14 million is sent to landfill.

If the UK is to achieve its ambitious targets with regards to recycling waste laid out in section 2.9 of DEFRAs single departmental plan 2019, the film industry as a whole and the production companies within it have a lot to do. The government report, produced in June 2019, details that:

  • The government will continue to show leadership on tackling plastic pollution
  • There will be a commitment delivered to clean up the country and achieve a substantial reduction in litter
  • New regulations will be implemented to tackle waste crime, stopping illegal waste activities, and reducing illegal waste sites

With this in mind, we discuss the benefits of recycling for the film industry and why all those involved in the industry must strive for a greener future.

The benefits of recycling for the film industry

Waste takes up a large amount of unnecessary space on your premises that could be being used in a more productive and efficient manner. With this in mind, one film production company in particular setting an example of how to correctly deal with waste is NBC’s 30 Rock. Back in 2013, they were awarded the Golden Dumpster Award for donating 10.74 tons of dressing, prop, and wardrobe items to the public as opposed to dumping it on a landfill. Not only that, but they are also responsible for the diversion of 33.68 accumulating tonnes of film materials to creative reuse as of 2008. From this, production companies can learn that by sorting their waste, they are significantly reducing their contribution to the staggeringly high amount of waste that the world produces each year.

It also avoids those unwanted fly-tipping charges. Not only is this illegal and can result in hefty fines, but it is also incredibly damaging to the environment. Your waste is your responsibility. Make sure that when you are disposing of any waste belonging to your production company, you do so in the correct manner. It was revealed by the Producers Guild of America Green Report that film studios spend on average $11,175 on plastic water bottles alone during a 60-day shoot. So, make sure that when you’re disposing of your plastic, you’re doing so the right way!

Finally, investing in effective waste disposal methods as opposed to simply allowing your waste to end up at landfill will enhance your business’ reputation. Not only that, but it will provide you with a larger pool of talent, as a large number of professionals want to work for a production company with good environmental credentials.

Implementing a waste disposal system

One of the key things to consider when implementing a waste management system into your business, particularly in the film industry, is the education of staff and everyone involved the production process.

Staff must be fully trained in recycling before you can expect it to be successful. How can they know what they are meant to achieve without being told it in the first place?

This doesn’t have to be a drastic, intensive training course on the benefits of recycling. All you need is a detailed plan of how recycling should be carried out and what you are expecting to see in terms of results. A leaderboard which pits different sides of the business against one another can be a fun way to engage all of the staff. Remember to update them as well!

You need to think about what you are going to be able to recycle. For most film production companies can expect to be able to recycle the following:

  • Cardboard
  • Plastic bottles
  • Props
  • Food and drink cans

Once you know what materials your business can recycle, you need to think about how you’re going to achieve it. The easiest way of doing this involves employing a waste management team; an outside contractor who will detail a step-by-step plan on how your production company can successfully dispose of its waste in an environmentally friendly manner.

As for purchasing new items that are environmentally friendly, the likes of biodegradable snow and biodegradable volcanic ash that can be used for movie or TV scenes is one of the ways special effects supplier Thomas FXs strive to make the film industry greener.

The film industry is rife with opportunity when it comes to managing waste. Production companies could place focus on using products that contain less plastic, polystyrene, or chemically-treated wood fibres to help change our planet for the better as a collective.


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