- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hollywood could have a dirty little secret: It’s a great big polluter, according to a study released yesterday by the University of California at Los Angeles.

Audiences overlook “the environmental impacts of filmmaking, which involve energy consumption, waste generation, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and physical disruptions on locations,” say study authors Richard P. Turco and Charles J. Corbett, professors at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment.

But the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rejects the idea, saying that sound environmental programs — from recycling building materials to banning harmful solvents — have been in place for a decade.

“The UCLA study purports to discuss film and television industry practices but was prepared without consultation with MPAA or the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the major trade industries for the entertainment industry,” said MPAA spokeswoman Kori Bernards, who also questioned the methodology of the study.

The researchers calculated that the film industry annually releases 140,000 metric tons of industrial pollutants into the air around Los Angeles, more than the aerospace, apparel, semiconductor and hotel industries. Behind-the-scenes culprits include electrical generators, idling diesel trucks, and even theatrical special effects and pyrotechnics.

The study also said filmmakers generated 8 million metric tons of greenhouse gases locally, only eclipsed by the aerospace industry at about 8.5 million tons. The sooty arm of showbiz also reaches across California, contributing 8 million more tons of the gases statewide.

The report — which gauged environmental practices among 43 film and TV representatives in a two-year period — was funded by the California Integrated Waste Management Board. Despite the critical findings, there are some green-minded suppliers to be found.

Snow Business, which offers 168 varieties of cellulose-based artificial snow for films sets, is stringent about using “ecofriendly and biodegradable materials” in sensitive freshwater or habitat areas. Los Angeles-based Looney Bins Inc. deconstructs and recycles movie sets, salvaging wood and building materials, and even donating materials to charities.

But the often-scattered nature of Hollywood itself prevents it from being “green.” Much of the work is controlled by short-lived production companies rather than grand-scale corporations, which build environmental practices into company policy.

The researchers did applaud Warner Bros. for recycling sets used on all three “Matrix” movies, ultimately salvaging 37 truckloads of building supplies for low-income Mexican families. New Line Cinema won accolades for turning a movie set home into a local children’s library.

“Our overall impression is that these practices are the exception and not the rule, and that more could be done within the industry to foster environmentally friendly approaches,” the researchers said.

The Environmental Media Association, a California-based nonprofit group that advises the film industry about environmentally friendly practices and script content, had no comment on the study, said spokeswoman Patie Maloney yesterday.

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