A creative spin on recycling

Ambev, a Brazilian brewing company (part of Anheuser-Busch InBev) has launched a digital film titled, “Querido Lixo” (Dear Garbage). The film, which expands on Ambev’s sustainability efforts, is made by SunsetDDB and Zombie Studio, using 3D techniques, and miniature sets created with recycled materials such as plastic and cardboard!

Ambev partnered last year with the National Association of Recyclable Material Pickers (ANCAT) in Brazil to help collect the garbage left by people participating in the biggest block parties in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, and Recife, in 2020 (yes, I was wondering how and when these parties happened, during the pandemic!).

About 26 million people partied on the streets in 2020 and produced 324 metric tons of waste and recyclable material. Of this amount, 127 tons of plastic were transformed into 2,000 street trash cans, which are being installed in select cities in Brazil now.

So, the effort is very contextual – a film about recycling made out of recycled garbage!

Beyond the production, what attracted me to the film was the narrative device used to explain the theme of recycling.

The film starts by anthropomorphizing (attributing human characteristics or behavior to non-human entities) a plastic bottle that looks very happy to be alive (with a cheerful smile) – or, to be born! The little bottle is the script’s protagonist.

As we follow its journey, at one point, the inevitable happens – the hero of the film is thrown into a recycling plant’s conveyor belt!

I first thought the narrative won’t kill the hero off (he is THE hero, after all!), but it did! I then wondered: “Now what? There’s no hero anymore?”. The brief shift in perspective, from that of the bottle to that of the trash picker (recyclable material picker) had me pausing and wondering.

But I am an Indian. And whenever a popular hero in a film is killed in the script, I invariably know that he’d be reborn! Think Karan-Arjun (among so many other Indian films in multiple languages) 🙂

This Brazilian film then surprised me by alluding to precisely that idea – of reincarnation! Just like how some of the Asian religions like Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism (there could be more, even beyond Asian religions, of course) believe that souls/consciousness move to another body (human, animal, etc.) after the mortal death of one body, the plastic bottle’s soul is found in a trash can made with the recycled bottle!

Not just that – just like how the soul’s memory is carried to the new incarnation in Indian films (a bit like scraping off and recovering deleted memory sectors on a hard-drive!), the trash can remembers the trash picker and greets him.

And he, on his part, seems to have the awareness of a Hindu seer or a Buddhist monk, fully understanding that this was the plastic bottle that had briefly befriended him earlier! I was glad that the bottle did not hold any grudges against the trash picker because he was, after all, the one who led to the bottle’s death 🙂

That’s an excellent way to depict recycling, through the universally understood (though not accepted, understandably) concept of reincarnation.

Though reincarnation is not explicitly mentioned (only indirectly implied) in this campaign, a few older campaigns on recycling have done so.

A 2007 Polish campaign for Greenpeace, by the agency Saatchi & Saatchi (Warsaw), used the creative device of producing mandala-style art using junk. The caption was literal – ‘Believe in reincarnation’.

A 2008 campaign by the agency Y&R, Abu Dhabi (UAE), for themselves, imagined past and future lives for a piece of paper used in the agency! There too, the caption was literal – “We might not all believe in reincarnation, but we do believe in recycling”. The next line added that more than 80% of the agency’s paper usage was recycled.

Somehow, an advertising agency using the theme of recycling is fraught with pitfalls about them also recycling ideas – a bit too inviting when it comes to jokes 🙂

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