The 2008 Pixar classic WALL-E has a pretty straightforward message: Take care of the Earth or it will become a trash-filled environmental disaster zone. But in this new 12-minute video, Matt Patrick a.k.a. MatPat of the YouTube channel The Film Theorists complicates things by digging into the “reality” of the situation. MatPat’s argument hinges on the idea that our waste management systems are actually much better than WALL-E gives them credit for. In fact, given how efficient the U.S. is at managing landfills, it would be highly unlikely that our cities would become trash-filled waste zones by the year 2805. Unless, of course, someone filled the Earth with all that trash on purpose.
MatPat eventually poses a theory that WALL-E’s satirical megacorporation Buy-N-Large intentionally filled the Earth with trash in order to drive people to live on their giant starliners. (The movie presents the starliners as a solution to the trash problem, but MatPat thinks it was actually the opposite.) Ultimately, however, the video is more interesting as an examination of our little-discussed waste management systems than it is as a mind-blowing theory about WALL-E. There are definitely some nuances missing here—particularly about the dangers of plastic. But MatPat does cite some interesting facts about just how much space the U.S. has for waste disposal. For instance, he claims a single landfill about the size of Delaware (a.k.a. .0005 percent of the total U.S. landmass) could contain all of the waste produced by the U.S. for the next 100 years.
Of course, a film analysis video probably isn’t the best place to get a fully nuanced understanding of pollution and waste. But it’s an interesting place to start. For those who are curious to learn more about America’s landfill system, the Stuff You Should Know podcast did a great episode all about them back in 2015. Meanwhile, here’s a slightly more scientific analysis of our plastic pollution problem.
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