DISPOSABLES

by Leslie Sanderson, UK

Synopsis

To solve the problem of mounting solid waste, the Government implements a macabre, but practical, solution that transfers “disposables” to the Soylent Green Plant. 

Cast of Characters

ROBERT(A) SCHELL:         an engineer and regional director, either gender, any ethnicity.

CHRIS:                                   an engineer about 22 years old, either gender, any ethnicity.   


Scene

An office with two side-by-side desks centre stage.  Each desk has a chair, and a PC or laptop with screen (back of screen facing audience) and keyboard.  Office-type phone on both desks. Wastebasket overflowing with trash.

Time

Sooner than you think.


Note: /- means to interrupt or speak over one another.


At Rise

Robert enters office carrying a plastic take-out bag of food and wearing a gas mask.  Styrofoam take-out food containers are stuck to his clothes from static electricity. Chris is seated, hunched over his cell phone, drinking from plastic bottle.

ROBERT

(Places bag on his desk. Takes off gas mask. Disgustedly removes styrofoam and throws it away. Mops his sweaty face. Sits at desk.)

Hey, Chris. 

CHRIS

(Reading his cell phone, looks up.)

Oh, hi, Robert.  Welcome back. 

ROBERT

Thanks.  You’re here early.

CHRIS

Yah, got here about an hour ago.  

ROBERT

You’re dedicated, Chris. 

CHRIS

(shrugs)

Whatever. . . How was your drive in?

ROBERT

My car overheated!  It’s 95 degrees out there already even though the sun is nearly blocked out by piled up trash. I could barely see the road and had to use GPS to get here. I almost missed the drive-through lane at McArnold’s.  They had a breakfast sandwich special.  At least that was good!

CHRIS

Wow, sorry about your car and your commute. Did you have a good vacation?

ROBERT

Sort of.  It was nice to be out of the office, but we were disappointed in the trip.

(Takes a styrofoam container and plastic cup with straw out       of bag. Eats and drinks throughout until directed to toss             wrappings.) 

CHRIS

That’s too bad.  Where’dya go?

ROBERT

We stayed at an all-inclusive hotel on the ocean in Belize.

CHRIS

 (Whistles.)

Wow, pretty slick!

ROBERT

Yeah, but it wasn’t. I found the place on an online discount travel site.  We got what we paid for.  The hotel was actually in the water.  We had to be tendered to it.

CHRIS

Tendered?

ROBERT

That’s what they call boating you back and forth.  A real inconvenience!  But the kids liked it. And they loved the Extinct Zoo. 

CHRIS

Oh, I’ve heard of that zoo.  What did you see there?

ROBERT

It’s amazing what they have.  The kids really liked the elephant! It’s more than 50 years old.  We saw a bald eagle, a snow leopard, a black rhino and lots of others. It’s like Noah’s ark but with just one of each animal.

CHRIS

Yeah, bummer.  Maybe they can clone some more.

ROBERT

Maybe.  I wonder if they can clone the reefs.  They were all bleached, so we had to nix snorkeling.

CHRIS

Even if they clone them, the reefs will still get bleached until the water cools.

ROBERT

(Wistfully)

Yah, right.  (beat) But, like I said, it was good to get out of the office. (beat) So, what’s happened here at the Office of Disposal and Burial while I was gone?  What’s the latest from HQ?

CHRIS

The usual – but you can see for yourself.

(Gets up to toss his water bottle.)

ROBERT

(Logging on to the PC. lets out a whistle.)

Holy crap!

CHRIS

What? (runs back to his desk) Are you looking at the Grand Canyon?  They started to use that while you were on vacation.

ROBERT

Oh my god!  Already?  But, no, I’m looking at the Great Salt Lake. What’s going on in Utah?

CHRIS

Aside from the normal tonnage, some of it’s because the Mormons changed their name and/-

ROBERT

-/ They want to be called the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints now.

CHRIS

Right.  So the Mormons changed their name and logo and threw out the old stuff.  There were tons of it.  Add in the plastic shampoo and lotion bottles from the ski resorts, so, yeah, Utah started using the Lake.

ROBERT

Well, they’ll figure it out. (beat) I’m going to catch up on my email. (Pause. Reading his screen.) Oh, HQ wants us to report on Florida. They copied you on it.  Did you respond?

CHRIS

(Sheepishly)

I haven’t read my email yet. 

ROBERT

You got here an hour ago.  What have you been doing?  We have to assess Florida and get back to the Secretary immediately!

(Throws take-out trash in the wastebasket.)

CHRIS

Uh-oh. I haven’t looked at Florida since you’ve been gone.  I wonder why they want us to check it out?

ROBERT

(Looking at screen, serious)

You haven’t????  You better look now. (beat) Wow, Lake Okeechobee is nearly filled and it/- 

CHRIS

(Chris finds Florida info on screen, rising concern.)

-/ Filled?  How is that possible?  What’s happening?

ROBERT

Give me a minute. . . . (surveying the map and data) Ah. . . Depends!

CHRIS

Depends on what?

ROBERT

(Rising concern)

No, Depends – adult disposable diapers.

CHRIS

I’m not following. 

ROBERT

(Getting worked up)

It looks like HQ forgot to include adult disposable diapers in the Florida landfill calculations. (looks at screen) Holy crap! I don’t think they included any “Over the Hill” rubbish.

CHRIS

I’m still not following.  What’s over the hill rubbish?

ROBERT

Stuff that old people throw out.  I think they left out geriatric trash entirely.  Wow! They haven’t accounted for prescription bottles, Metamucil tubs, dentures, Ensure cans, Preparation H tubes. . . Let me see. . .

(Reads more information on screen. In a panic.)

Oh no, I don’t think they figured in shoreline erosion either. Idiots! Pull up the live Frugal earth map!

CHRIS

I’ve got it right here. (panics.)  OMG!  There’s hardly any open land left!  Take a look.

ROBERT

Yup, I’ve got it here.  Wait!  Let me see, there must be some open land!  What about the Everglades?

CHRIS

Negative.  The Burmese Pythons closed the borders.  They’re only letting in Pythons and Green Anacondas.

ROBERT

(Scanning the map)

Lake Okeechobee?? (beat) The State and County Parks?

CHRIS

Nope.  They’re all filled up!  Florida IS running out of land!

ROBERT

Crap.  I go away for 2 weeks and you let this get out of control!?!  We don’t have much time before the state fills all the landfills.

CHRIS

It’s not my fault. I got no warning from Headquarters. They don’t know what they’re doing.  The Secretary has no experience! I’ve forgotten more than she’ll ever know about landfills and solid waste.

ROBERT

Chris, it’s your job to monitor this!  That’s why we hired you. HQ sent you an urgent email.  What have you been doing? 

CHRIS

I’ve been monitoring our region, but it’s impossible to stay on top of all of it!  Especially when I get faulty data! 

ROBERT

Well, you’d think HQ staff would be up on science.  But apparently not. (Beat) Maybe they’re intentionally playing the danger down.  

CHRIS

Why would they play it down? 

ROBERT

(Gives Chris a significant look)

For starters, politics. . . The state needs tourist revenue. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say Hanlon’s razor is ruling.

CHRIS

You have lost me totally.  What is Hanlon’s razor?

ROBERT

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”  In other words, the HQ staff are incompetent!

CHRIS

Dear god. How did it get to this?  My grandparents live in Florida, in the Villages.

ROBERT

I’m sorry to hear that, son.  (Phone rings. Robert answers it.) Southeast RegionalOffice of Disposal and Burial, Robert Schell speaking. (pause) Yes, Madam Secretary.  We have started to monitor it closely. (pause) Yes, it could be critical.  (pause) Are you sure, ma’am? (pause) But we need more time to assess it. (pause) Yes ma’am. We will work on it immediately. (pause)  Yes, I will report back when we are ready to execute. (pause) Goodbye.

(Hangs up, looks stricken.)

We have orders to begin Florida’s Transfer Plan SG.

CHRIS

Transfer Plan SG? Already?  Oh, no, no, no.  We can’t rush into this.  Florida wasn’t supposed to be full for another year. 

ROBERT

(Firmly)

It was your job to monitor it. You fucked up.  So now we have orders to execute Plan SG.  Let’s pull up the plan and get started. 

CHRIS

No, not Plan SG!  Did the Secretary give us any discretion?  How about Plan C?  Would that work?

ROBERT

We’ve been through this before, Chris. Plan C isn’t good enough. Plan SG lets us free up as much land as possible, and eliminates tons of future trash.

CHRIS

How about if we just transfer the trash?

ROBERT

Holy moley!  Don’t you have a PhD in waste engineering?

CHRIS

You know I do. 

ROBERT

Well, Dr. Chris, use your bean! Since every American creates a ton of trash a year, which makes more sense?  To transfer the tons of trash?  Or the people who generate 15 times their body weight in solid waste year after year?  Besides, other countries like Japan have their own problems with senior citizen disposables.  There’s not one country anywhere in the world that will take our garbage.

CHRIS

I know, I know, but please don’t transfer my pops and grandma!  They just retired.  They just want to play tennis and golf.  They recycle and organize Earth Day celebrations. Grandma makes birdhouses out of bleach bottles.  Please!

ROBERT

Chris, I’m sorry but it’s got to be Plan SG.  Everyone 65 and older is going to be transferred.

CHRIS

NO!!!!

ROBERT

Think of the land we’ll recover! Hell, the Villages alone is 48 square miles. We’ll recover Assisted Living facilities, retirement communities, golf courses.  We’ll gain enough land to bury about (checks screen calculations) a million tons of trash. That’s a shit-load! 

CHRIS

Please, can we sit on this for a day? I have to get my folks out.

ROBERT

Son, you knew what this job required before you accepted it. It sounds like your grandparents have had a good life.  Are they going to be selfish and resist being transferred?  If they’re responsible boomers, they’ll want to be transferred for the benefit of the younger generation. 

CHRIS

But 65 is the new 50!

ROBERT

Don’t go soft on me.  Look, Plan SG will prevent tons of solid waste production every year – year after year  – and will regain valuable fillable land.  We’re going to be heroes and make millions of old timers heroes too.  We’ll get promoted!

CHRIS

Robert, when you arrive at the pearly gates and St. Peter decides if you’ll be allowed in, how will you be judged?  That you facilitated the transfer of millions of grandmas and grandpas?  Maybe you can do it, but I can’t.

ROBERT

Sorry.  We have orders. (dials, waits for an answer) By the way, I’man atheist.  Madam Secretary, it’s Robert Schell. (Pause) Transfer Plan SG is now ready for execution… Yes, ma’am, that’s right.  The state will recover 50 thousand acres for new landfills. And approximately 5 million retirees will be transferred.  (pause) Yes, ma’am. (pause) What is the yield?  One moment, ma’am. 

(to Chris)

Chris, what’s the estimated yield?

CHRIS

(Checks his screen.)

The Plant says 80 million pounds.

ROBERT

(into the phone)

The Soylent Green Plant estimates the transferees will yield 80 million pounds of edible protein.  (pause) Just doing my job, ma’am. (pause) Oh!  Wow!!!  Thank you so much! (pause) Oh!  Great!  I’ll let him know.  Thank you again, ma’am. Goodbye.

(Turns to Chris.)

Done.  And like I said, we’re heroes.  The Secretary is very pleased and is going to promote both of us! 

CHRIS

I don’t want a promotion in Disposal and Burial. This Department is a killer.  I quit. 

ROBERT

Think it over, Chris.  You’ll regret your decision when you have to make your student loan payments.  Staying here will give you job security, and after 30 years you can retire with a full pension. 

CHRIS

(Gets up to leave.)

Right, so I can retire and look forward to being transferred to the hamburger plant!  Forget it.  I’m going to save my grandparents.  You can go to hell.

ROBERT

Hell?  Hardly, sonny boy.  I’m gonna be in heaven.  The Secretary is going to promote me to Managing Director of the Soylent Green Plant!  Good luck with gramps and gramma.

Curtain down.

End of Play


Playwright’s post script:  I wrote Disposables in September, 2020.  On November 16, 2021, the New York Times printed the article, “A New Source of Fuel in an Aging Japan: Adult Incontinence” citingthatwaste from adult diapers is growing by tens of thousands of tons a year in Japan.”

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