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Sustainable plastic art

Caroline Zöller

Published on 02.01.2020

A London Store has managed to polarise people with its large-format photographs of waste, confronting visitors with global plastic usage.

Pollution of the oceans by plastic waste has become an enormous problem. Every year, about 8 million tonnes of plastics finish up in the oceans, threatening both marine life and the health of people all over the globe. Since due to solar radiation and saltwater, plastic gradually decomposes into the smallest of micro particles, it has even reached the deepest point of the sea, the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, in the meantime. Plastic entering the human circulatory system via air, food or water can have disastrous health consequences.

Many noteworthy projects have already been introduced to increase awareness of the problem and to get everyone to think about their own personal use of plastic products. This includes the gigantic art installation “Over Flow” by Tadashi Kawamata and located in the Lisbon Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology. These projects demonstrate impressively just how much plastic finishes up in the rivers and oceans. The “Ocean Clean Up” project has set itself the task of using floating islands to collect plastic waste from the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

Another project is the exhibition by the “Shed Design” artists, set in the heart of London.

There, visitors were able to visit the “Pass On Plastic” pop-up store from 8th November 2018 to 6th January 2019. The store was printed floor to ceiling with everyday plastic products such as toothbrushes and PET bottles. The closer visitors got to the digitally printed wallpaper, the clearer it became that the terrazzo-like wallpaper was actually made of waste. It highlighted very impressively the enormous quantities of plastic waste produced by people in the western world and the effect this is having on the oceans. The viewer was confronted with his own plastic consumption and encouraged to reflect upon it. What is so special about the plastic objects depicted on the walls is that this was real plastic waste which had been recovered from the ocean and photographed for the project. The waste motif was also repeated on the changing cubicles’ fabric curtains and the facade of the building. The individual neon lettering with the hashtag PassOnPlastic completed the range of different advertising technology materials used.

Together with Project 0, Sky Ocean Rescue and ambassadors like Kate Moss and Princess Eugenie, the “Shed Design” artists did not just create the printed materials for the rooms and facades of the building, they also created recyclable products which were presented in the shopping section. In addition, each of the ambassadors developed an alternative solution to a typical disposable plastic product. As well as being confronted with the problems caused by plastics, customers were also offered solutions in the form of reusable sustainable products. The sales revenue was donated to WWF.

An hourglass filled with micro plastic also drew attention to the fact that residual plastic can be found in the tiniest of particles spread throughout the oceans. Industrial designer Brodie Neill co-operated with environmental authorities and collected plastic particles from all different corners of the globe to make it clear just how widespread ocean-borne plastic has become.

There was one area of the pop-up store that was particularly conspicuous because it contrasted so starkly with the scenes of teeming plastic waste depicted on the wallpaper covering the other surfaces: a single white wall. The wall bearing the slogan, “Message without a bottle” invited visitors to make a very personal promise. They could write in the blank space what they wanted to change for the future regarding their own usage of disposable plastics in their everyday lives. The store designers hoped that this would help increase people’s motivation to change something together. By the end of the project, every square centimetre of the wall was filled with promises.

Images: Shed Design