Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Life cycle of the plastic bag.

A while back I came across a YouTube mockumentary, The Majestic Plastic Bag, which highlights a serious problem about ‘disposable’ plastic shopping bags.  Although a serious problem, the mockumentary takes a satirical tone that does a stellar job showing us exactly where those ubiquitous plastic bags end up. Narrated by Jeremy Irons as if it’s a wildlife documentary, the video begins with the plastic bag’s start in life (the great escape) at a shopping mall and the 'challenges' it faces as it tries to get back ‘home’, the Great Plastic Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean. Nothing like a little comedy to make the message go down a bit more easily.
Then Bag in the Wind by Ted Kooser, (823 K8377B PIC BK) arrived at the Doucette Library.  This is a beautifully illustrated (by Barry Root) picture book that also looks at the ‘life’ of a plastic bag – not so much the life cycle – but a circular story, nevertheless.  It’s not a satire like the YouTube video but a somewhat poetic elucidation of how plastic bags can be reused, recycled, and perhaps, replaced, altogether. 

This particular yellow plastic bag’s journey also begins with an escape, from a landfill this time. It is blown across the open rural landscape and found and reused by various people.  The narrative emphasizes reusing and recycling not the environmental issues.

The author, Ted Kooser, an American Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006, takes a somewhat poetic tone with this story.  Lots of lovely, gentle language describing the journey of the plastic bag is paired well with the illustrations, which also contribute to the gentle tone of the book.  It’s not until reading the afterward that we learn about the impact of plastic grocery bags on the environment or the threat to wildlife.  In case the message may have been missed in the story, the importance in reducing our dependency on plastic bags and reusing/recycling the bags we no longer want is reiterated here.  

This book is a great tie-in with curriculum topics that deal with recycling (grade 4 science in Alberta), environment, plastics, other petroleum products and related social issues.


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