This past weekend, I, just like many others, saw Alice in Wonderland in 3D at a nearby theater. Going to a movie theater isn’t very common for me, so many new, potential CSR initiatives popped into my head. I went to the AMC Van Ness 14 in San Francisco, and many improvements can be made there. Has anyone noticed the amount of waste that occurs in the cinema business, in particular, all the paper and plastic wasted for packaging?

Here is the breakdown of a typical routine at a movie theater: purchase tickets (paper), purchase snack (numerous amounts of paper and plastic), use the restroom (paper), leave the theater when movie is finished (no recycling). Most of the negative impact on the environment is seen in the purchasing of snacks and the leaving sections of this routine. Purchasing snacks was the first action that struck me as wasteful then all the other ideas hit afterwards. Numerous bags are used on a daily basis to provide popcorn to customers. Most of the candy provided has both paper and plastic items for packaging. For example: Sour patch kids are in a plastic bag that is inside a cardboard box. Even the heartier food items are packaged just as much as candy. Nachos are put inside a cardboard carrying device, and the cheese is often in a plastic container on the side. Pizza is also put in a cardboard carrying case. Drinks are where a lot of wasteful packaging occurs. A typical drink order comes with the paper cup, a plastic lid, and a plastic straw that is wrapped in a paper outline. If numerous drinks are ordered then a cardboard carrying tray is also given to the customer. Finally, once a movie is over, we all just leave our trash on the floor or throw it away in trash bin.

Other wasteful use of packaging and energy I saw was that the restrooms do not provide hand air dryers as an option; only paper is used. All the advertisements for new movies are on large cardboard cutouts. Fluorescent lighting lights movie-poster boxes, and the amount of the lighting for the entire building seemed rather excessive. To top it all off, we saw the movie in 3D, and the all plastic glasses were individually wrapped in more plastic and given to every viewer. The theaters did ask us to recycle them in assigned bins, but no one in my group was able to easily see that bin.

If changes could be made in the fields of purchasing and disposing of snacks, then a lot of waste would be cut down. Theaters should try to purchase biodegradable bags and other products that are commonly used for. A goal for the far future could be for theaters to use reusable bowls and glasses for popcorn and drinks. Candy could be sold by weight instead of individual packaging. This allows for more bulk items to be purchased, which can immensely cut down packaging. Tickets could be printed on recycled paper. Finally, different types of waste bins, other than trash, need to be placed all around the grounds. Plastic bottles, food, and cardboard waste are all thrown in one trash bin. This could easily be applied to all movie theaters by constantly asking for cooperation during previews.

Here are two links that provide an example how one film festival tries to reduce waste and how different types of companies exist that can provide greener services.

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Moonlight+cinema+goes+green!-a0212326718
http://www.filmjournal.com/filmjournal/content_display/news-and-features/features/cinemas/e3i4c8c39f58df428b97dce009649080b39

—a.cortez