This Fourth of July weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing the newest film from Disney Pixar, WALL-E. Going into the movie theatre not knowing the plot of the movie, I was surprised to discover that one of its primary topics is the amount of stuff we all accumulate and how most of it ends up in landfills.
Of course, being a film from Disney Pixar, which has released overnight classics such as Finding Nemo, Cars and Toy Story, the issue is approached with light, family-fun humor.
Beginning hundreds of years into the future, the story follows WALL-E (which stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class), a lovable robot trash-compactor programmed to pick up our trash, crush it into small squares and neatly stack them into mini-mountains of garbage. At this point in the future, humans have created enough trash for WALL-E to construct skyscrapers tall enough to fill out the New York City skyline. The Earth is no longer inhabited by people (they now live on a space station far from home), and is a place without plant growth — save for one small, lone sprout — or any apparent food or water supply. Instead, it's essentially a giant landfill featuring a ruddy, smog-clouded sky and roaring dust storms.
With only a cockroach (of course) for company, WALL-E quickly falls in love when a new scouting robot, EVE (pronounced by WALL-E as “EE-VAH”), arrives via spaceship seeking plant matter — evidence that Earth has recovered enough to support life, including humans, once again. Yet, as in any good romance EVE is not easily won, and WALL-E's affection for her takes him to the spacestation, where the story continues a deft and witty imagining of the potential repercussions of modern culture.
Although a film meant for children, WALL-E hits hard in imagining what will happen to our planet if we continue to dump trash that can be recycled, reused or even avoided in the first place. Currently, Americans alone generate over 250 million tons of trash per year (before recycling). With this kind of statistic, it's a wonder our planet doesn’t already resemble the literal wasteland that the movie depicts.
Want to see WALL-E in action? Check out the trailer below. You can find more information about landfills in the United States at HowStuffWorks. Let us know what you think — about the movie or about how we create and deal with trash — in the comments section below.