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Thursday 06th September 2018

Plastic China

Free (No ticket required - First come first served)
8:00PM (Doors open 7.30pm)
INDOOR: Veolia (UK) Ltd, Southwark Integrated Waste Management Facility


Officially selected for Sundance Film Festival, 2017

Plastic China will be Screened  on Thursday 6 September, Recycling Discovery Centre 8pm, Doors 7.30pm

PLASTIC CHINA – in brief:

A portrait of poverty, ambition and hope set in a world of waste

Plastic China Laughter of playing children echoes through vast rolling hills of plastic waste. This recycling plant is home to Pen and his daughter Yi Jie, who is desperate for an education, and boss Kun, determined to improve his family’s lot. Over time, one man moves closer to prosperity whilst the other stagnates in poverty. This poetic doc reveals the lives of those on the fringes of global capitalist realities, a far cry from the communist dream.

Detailed Storyline:

Newspaper articles on Prince William’s grand wedding is the magic cape for the kids; eye patches from the Qantas Airways is the protection mask for the workers; a Dutch SIM card brings in a message of “Welcome to China” once inserted to a cell phone.  Welcome to the land of “Plastic China.” As the world’s biggest plastic waste importer, China receives ten million tons per year from most of the developed countries around the world. With high external costs impacting the local environment and health, these imports are reborn here in these plastic workshops into “recycled” raw materials for the appetite of China – the world factory.  This waste is then exported back to where they came from with a new face such as manufactured clothing or toys.

PLASTIC CHINA’s main character Yi-Jie is an unschooled 11-year-old girl whose family works and lives in a typical plastic waste household-recycling workshop. As much as her life is poor and distorted, she’s a truly global child who learns the outside world from the waste workshop that her family lives in and works in – also known as the “United Nations of Plastic Wastes.”  She lives her happiness and sorrows amongst the waste, as well. Small packs of discarded instant black powder tells her the bitter taste of “coffee”; the English children’s learning cards teach her words like “summer” and “father’s day”; and broken Barbie dolls are her best friends to talk to.  This is her world.

Her father has promised to send her to school five years ago but not yet delivered on it. Instead, he spends his hard-earned money from the plastic workshop on alcohol. However, Yi-Jie keeps her wish alive of going to school one day, and we see her holding her playful campaign towards learning and schooling. Will she succeed to sit in a classroom and learn? Or will she succeed her parents as an illiterate laborer in the recycling workshop?  What is her future?

Kun, the owner of this household-recycling workshop, represents money, power and the educated class for Yi-Jie. He looks down on Yij-Je’s family, but also depends on them to do the dirty labor that nobody else wants to do. Often, he teaches Yi-Jie to read and write, when he is in a good mood.

Kun works day and night and ignores the physical and mental health problems of his own family and himself, just to save for a sedan car like any other factory boss in the region. He’s afraid of being looked down upon and owning a car is the status symbol of being successful in the world.

Following these families’ daily lives, PLASTIC CHINA explores how this work of recycling plastic waste with their bare hands takes a toll not only on their health, but also their own dilemma of poverty, disease, pollution and death. All of this to eek out a daily living. 

PLASTIC CHINA also unveils the true face of China. The current world image of the growing China prosperity is similar to that of plastic surgery – fake and fragile with uncertain consequences.  People lose their mind over this unreal beauty and their own fates are formed into whatever shape reality requires – just like those plastic products coming out of the mold machine.

Tracing further to the plastic waste imported from around the world, this signals and symbolises the lives of those on the other side of the world – far away from China’s plastic recycling workshops.  When these symbolic wastes immersed deeply in this impoverished world of these Chinese workers, we are confronted with the truth that the world is flat and issues don’t go away by changing time and location.  At the end of the day, as a global nation, we are all in this together, and we all play a part in this ever-changing world.


This state-of-the-art facility is able to process all of Southwark’s household waste and recyclables helping to significantly improve recycling rates and reduce the impact that the borough’s waste has on the environment.

This facility represents a key piece of waste infrastructure that sets the standard for the way waste is managed in the capital.

It also enables us to divert the majority of Southwark’s waste away from landfill.

The facility comprises of five major areas:

  • The Materials Recovery Facility sorts recyclables collected from households.
  • The Mechanical Biological Treatment facility turns black bag waste into a fuel for energy recovery.
  • The Reuse and Recycling Centre supports waste prevention through a variety of reuse schemes.
  • The Transfer Station provides a collection point for any materials that cannot be treated on site.
  • The Recycling Discovery Centre offers educational opportunities designed especially for primary school children


Jiuliang Wang
Running Time
88 mins
Veolia (UK) Ltd, Southwark Integrated Waste Management Facility
Southwark Integrated Waste Management Facility, Recycling Discovery Centre, 43 Devon Street , London, SE15 1AL United Kingdom

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