The live-action “Barbie” movie, directed by Greta Gerwig, has made around 775 million dollars globally so far. The highly anticipated film has raised Barbie doll parent company Mattel’s shares significantly and has already become a cultural phenomenon. However, climate activists point out that the iconic Barbie dolls that inspired the movie are not environmentally friendly. Indeed, many worry that the hype surrounding the movie will cause a boom in Barbie doll production which could exacerbate plastic Pollution. Amid these fears, a video was released that appears to show actress and environmental activist Daryl Hannah partnering with Mattel. However, the video was part of an elaborate hoax designed to draw attention to plastic waste created by Barbie and other toys.
Source: MyCelia Barbie/YouTube
In the video, Hannah can be seen explaining the effect that Barbie dolls and other plastics have on the environment. She describes finding a Barbie doll during a snorkeling expedition on a remote island and points out the effects plastic Pollution has on the environment. Hannah also points out that plastic recycling is largely ineffective. The video, which is titled “Plastic Free with Daryl Hannah”, appears to be released in conjunction with the toy brand Mattel. Indeed, the brand logo is used in the video and Barbie-like fonts and colors are used throughout. The crux of the video occurs when Hannah announces that Mattel has committed to going plastic free by 2030 and that they are releasing a line of plastic-free, biodegradable Barbie dolls modeled after notable environmental activists including Hannah herself.
A news release accompanied the video which appeared to be from Mattel. Several prominent publications ran articles reporting on the statement and release of the MyCelia Ecowarrior Barbies line. However, both the release and video were part of an elaborate hoax that included the creation of a realistic website showing the Ecowarrior Barbies. A Mattel representative confirmed that the video starring Hannah and the fake campaign was not real and had no affiliation with the El Segundo-based company. The hoax was carried out by Hannah and the Yes Men. The Yes Men are a pair of political satirists who go by the names Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum in their activist work. The activist group Barbie Liberation Organization was also involved in the Barbie hoax. The Barbie Liberation Organization told the New York Times that the reason for the stunt was to draw attention to the issue of plastic use in, and pollution from, toys as the “Barbie” movie draws increased attention to the famous doll.
Making a single traditional Barbie doll produces 660 grams of carbon emissions. These dolls and their accessories are made of several different types of plastic. Plastic does not decompose and is made predominantly from fossil fuels making it particularly environmentally damaging. Alarmingly, in 2021 there were 164 Barbie dolls bought every minute. According to Hannah’s video, over one billion Barbie dolls have already entered our landfills and waterways. Once there, instead of decomposing they break down into smaller and smaller pieces which leach chemicals into the environment, can be eaten by animals, and pose health threats.
Although Mattel has not yet embraced plastic-free Barbie dolls, they are beginning to transition towards using “recycled, recyclable, or biobased materials” according to their website. They hope to transition fully by 2023. They have already released several dolls made from recycled plastics. These include the Barbie Loves the Ocean doll, which is made from ocean-bound recycled plastics. However, participants hope that the Barbie hoax will push Mattel to move away from plastics completely and invest in technologies that will make a plastic-free, biodegradable doll possible. Plastic recycling has been largely decried by several sources and does not appear to be a reliable option. Therefore, it behooves us all to move away from plastics completely. Hopefully, this Barbie hoax will prove a wake-up call to Mattel and other toy manufacturers.
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