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Summary

A singular appreciation of waste processing (graceful, mesmeric and almost balletic), SINGLE STREAM plunges viewers into the steady flow of a materials recycling facility where hundreds of tons of refuse are sorted each day. Yet another revelatory documentary from Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab Single Stream locates the beauty, efficiency and futurism of an industry built on our culture of excess. Filmed inside one of the country's largest material recycling facilities, the title of this work by Pawel Wojtasik, Toby Kim Lee and Ernst Karel refers to the "single stream" method of recycling, in which all types of recyclables are initially gathered together to be sorted later at a specialized facility. Inside a cavernous building, we observe a vast machine complex that runs like clock-work, sorting a never-ending stream of glass, metal, paper and plastic, all carried on conveyor belts that crisscross a massive space dotted with workers in neon vests. It is a complex dance of human, machine and movement; one that has been developed and fine-tuned to expediently and efficiently treat the enormous amount of waste produced daily. A sure-fire discussion starter for environmental and labor classes, SINGLE STREAM allows us to see our trash in a manner that's never been done before.

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