Trashy Movie Bares All (About Waste)

Garbage rarely earns a place in the marquee lights, but a new film about trash in America is making its rounds on the independent film circuit. Writer and filmmaker Heather Rogers has produced and directed a documentary on garbage called Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage. Rogers says her film's goal to entertain and educate its audience is achieved by presenting images of popular culture for social and historical context alongside officials spouting facts and statistics.

Showing at film festivals across the country and in Europe, Gone Tomorrow explores the history and politics of garbage while examining the consumer drive at the root of American culture and capitalism. Garbage will consistently be accumulating so long as the desire to own more and newer products endures, according to the filmmaker.

“Garbage is a text through which everyone can relate,” Rogers says. “It is a relationship between our daily lives and environmental issues.” The short film attempts to bring its audience into the world of waste by showing how an individual's purchasing habits and susceptibility to marketing leads to more waste and pushes landfill capacity to its brink.

“According to the official ideology of Keep America Beautiful Inc., America is getting greener — reduce, reuse, recycle,” Rogers says in a voiceover in the movie. But with statistics, she tries to prove otherwise. Since 1970, the amount of garbage Americans send to the landfill and incinerators has doubled, Rogers says. “While recycling is better than landfilling and [sending garbage to the incinerators], it is not a long-term solution,” she says.

Rogers' film indicates that recycling and “green” ideology is a Band-Aid for a greater ill that cannot be cured unless a complete lifestyle and cultural upheaval takes place. She illustrates her point with a social history of American consumers' lifestyle by showing commercials from the 1950s interspersed with figures and statistics. Currently, 3 percent of plastic gets recycled, and Rogers says the waste industry is growing at seven times the rate of the recycling industry. Her solution: “Enforcing the use of recycled materials in government offices will help create recycled markets,” she says. “It takes less energy and fewer resources to use recycled glass than to produce new plastic,” she says.

Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage is available for $10 on VHS through AK Press. To order a copy, visit