Going Hollywood

Hollywood may be in the business of producing white-hot stars, but it also has time to help Mother Earth. And in a move fitting for an industry that knows a thing or two about publicity, the Solid Waste Task Force of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the Motion Picture Association of America Inc. announced on Earth Day in April that its members collectively had a diversion and recycling rate of more than 50 percent in 2003.

Members have worked to reach the 50 percent rate every year since the group formed in the early 1990s in response to California's Assembly Bill 939, which called for a 50 percent reduction in waste by the year 2000. Industry executives — most of whom were involved in environmental initiatives at their respective studios — decided to meet and share best practices on how to comply with the law, says Shelley Billik, vice president of environmental initiatives at Warner Bros. Entertainment, which has been a member for 12 years. “We have an opportunity to set an example because we have pretty high visibility,” she says. “It's our responsibility as corporate citizens to pay attention and be proactive, and hopefully help other industries do the same.”

The task force is comprised of major film studios and tv networks including Fox, The Walt Disney Co., Paramount Pictures, MGM, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros. and the West Coast centers of ABC and CBS. Each implements its own procedures for reducing waste, but all members agree on the importance of recycling and diversion. “We all really believe in educating our employees that these are resources and not trash,” Billik says.

Together, the task force members examined where the most voluminous materials were, and realized that lumber was an issue, Billik recalls. So at Warner Bros., scaffolding is now made of steel and reused. “It's challenging because we're using different labor unions [for the steel], and we also have issues of storage, meeting sizing needs of productions, and if the floors are going to be noisier than wood floors,” she says.

Warner Bros. also has contributed to its high diversion rate is by finding material reuse options. Frequently, the studio donates outdated computer and furniture to schools or nonprofits, as well as leftover food. School shop classes also have benefited from donated lumber, Billik says. She also has hired recycling crews to work during the day, rather than at night, when most custodial work is done. This adds an educational component to the program. “We want people to see this is an active job, that [the material] doesn't just disappear in the middle of the night,” Billik explains.

In the future, the task force plans to tackle energy and fuel issues, and what environmental impact movie and television production has in those areas, she says.