Documentary Review – The Clean Bin Project

The Clean Bin Project is a documentary made by Grant Baldwin and Jen Rustemeyer, a couple who live in Vancouver, British Columbia. The premise of the film is to see if it’s possible for them to live waste-free for an entire year.

Overall, I found The Clean Bin Project to be a fascinating film. Grant and Jen are a likeable couple and their thought-provoking and oftentimes humourous adventures are punctuated by interviews with some notable people: Captain Charles Moore, who researches plastic in the oceans, and Chris Jordan, artist and activist, whose work depicting consumption is stunning, both in its artistic beauty, as well as in its mind-boggling and horrific scope.

There’s also a must-see time-lapse deconstruction of the packaging of a Barbie doll from the 50s versus a Barbie doll from today, which provides fascinating fodder for anyone who’s concerned about (okay, rails about) the little bits of plastic crap that seep into and litter our children’s lives from seemingly every direction. And the Christmas scene was especially significant for our family (smiles all around, and several utterances of, Well, will you look at that! Those cloth gift bags are just like ours!).

I don’t want to spoil the ending, so I’ll just say this: Grant and Jen take an action at the end of the film that felt — to me, at least — utterly and completely wrong. But because it’s an action that’s undertaken by each and every one of us on a weekly basis — albeit through a middleman — the only thing I can conclude is that they entirely succeeded in proving an essential and uncomfortable truth about waste. (Although the fact that I’m their “choir” is certainly a point I will concede!)

5 thoughts on “Documentary Review – The Clean Bin Project

  1. Well, now I need to watch just so I can find out what’s at the end! Toy packaging is one of my biggest peeves. Can’t believe all the plastic used to secure items, and for what purpose? It’s ridiculous.


    1. Toy packaging is one of my biggest peeves too! I often choose not to buy things, toys included, specifically because of the packaging. This morning, on our walk to school, my 9 year-old son and I were discussing what present he should give for his friend’s upcoming birthday party. We floated the idea of another Calvin and Hobbes anthology (we’ve given these for the last several parties he’s gone to), and my son said he’s become “the hub of birthday party literature” 🙂 This made me so happy on so many levels, not least of which was the fact that books come with NO packaging!!!


  2. So…I’m guessing the ending was a sort of garbage version of “everybody poops”…everybody makes trash? Sigh. I’m with you on the tiny bits of plastic crap. The other day I nearly bought a Pez dispenser for my daughter’s Easter basket. Pez! Classic American fun! It would utterly delight her…for about 7 minutes. And then it would be plastic crap. Oh dear, I’ve gone humorless…but much better to stick to the classic foil-wrapped chocolate bunny, I think. (Because, chocolate.)

    I love the idea of being “the hub of birthday party literature”! We’ve been giving Dover coloring books + markers for a while now and my daughter is kind of over it. I’ll suggest Calvin and Hobbes next time!


    1. You probably (?) didn’t mean for this to happen, but I got a good laugh out of your dry “Oh dear, I’ve gone humourless” 🙂 Oh my gosh, this is just so where I am these days! Having been raised in a rather humourless home, I’ve always kind of prided myself on my sense of humour and my ability to look on the bright side of life, but it seems I can’t look at much of anything these days without a near paralysis as I analyze impact: the whole it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye has been eco-twisted to it’s all fun and games until it sits in the landfill for a thousand years 😦 Which is just what I would say about the Pez and the other crap one could theoretically stuff into an Easter basket!

      SPOILER ALERT: So yes, you’re pretty much right about the ending of the documentary. They take their bins themselves and dump them on the ground in the city dump. When I saw it, it just struck me as wrong, that the garbage simply got dumped on the ground like that, you know? In hindsight, I probably WAY oversold the shock value – I’m sure a lot of people see the end and think nothing of it; where else is garbage supposed to go, but to the landfill? (Duh, Marian…)


      1. Hee, yes, I’m glad to have made you laugh! There was humorlessness in my home growing up, too, and I think it’s made me deeply committed to the idea of moderation. There ought to be a way of opting out of the “more, more, more” culture of consumerism without giving in to total dourness. And a way of being easy with ourselves without just giving ourselves a free pass/letting ourselves off the hook. (You see I do take some pride in my mild form of humorlessness, which is called earnestness. 🙂 ) But even trying to find that middle road can be paralyzing.


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