First Public Screening of ‘The Story of Stuff’and Panel Discussion on Wasting the Nation: Making Trash of People and Environments - Wednesday, 05 August 2009, 12h30, Auditorium Museum Africa, 121 Bree Street, Johannesburg

This documentary and panel session will consider why ‘waste’ occurs globally and in South Africa, what are the political dynamics that foster a wasting nation, and how politicians and people are responding or ignoring the challenges that face us.

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff [1] is a 20-minute film that takes viewers on a provocative and eye-opening tour of the real costs of our consumer driven culture—from resource extraction to iPod incineration.

Annie Leonard, an activist who has spent the past 10 years traveling the globe, including South Africa, fighting environmental threats, narrates the Story of Stuff, delivering a rapid-fire, often humorous and always engaging story about “all our stuff—where it comes from and where it goes when we throw it away.” Leonard examines the real costs of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal, and she isolates the moment in history where she says the trend of consumption mania began. The Story of Stuff examines how economic policies of the post-World War II era ushered in notions of “planned obsolescence” and “perceived obsolescence” —and how these notions are still driving much of the U.S. and global economies today.

Leonard’s inspiration for the film began as a personal musing over the question, “Where does all the stuff we buy come from, and where does it go when we throw it out?” She traveled the world in pursuit of the answer to this seemingly innocent question, and what she found along the way were some very guilty participants and their unfortunate victims.

Written by Leonard, the film was produced by Free Range Studios, the makers of other highly popular web-based films such as “The Meatrix” and “Grocery Store Wars.”


Annie Leonard's “The History of Stuff” is a mega hit on three levels. First having studied economics right through graduate school, I can tell you that this 20 minute film will make you laugh AND teach you everything you need to know about the global economy. I should have saved my tuition checks. Second, Annie's use of a short, simple film that breaks a complicated story down to something that we can all understand sets a new bar for activism, bypassing even Gore's “An Inconvenient Truth.” Annie did this without a multi-million dollar movie budget and award winning directors. Lastly, Annie's distribution model, giving it away over the web, is going to make this the viral activist hit of the year.

—John Passacantando, Executive Director, Greenpeace USA

Panel Discussion
‘The critical role of waste reclaimers in a changing South African and Global Economy’

This panel will share some thoughts on the waste situation in South Africa, and how people working at creating livelihoods in this sector – on landfill sites and in the streets – are challenged politically and structurally because government would rather not have them operating.


For more information

Bobby Peek, groundWork, 082 464 1383


[1] See

[2] See the 2008 groundWork report.

[3] See Reclaiming Livelihoods.pdf