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Upcycling and Art: A Successful Tool for Raising Awareness about Plastic Pollution. “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

  • 3 min read

By Alexandra Amorosino

Plastic pollution is a worldwide issueand it’s more than understandable that we have a hard time thinking about it through a global lens. As humans, we are accustomed to country borders that determine our lives with nationalities and laws, but in the ocean, there are no borders. One country’s trash can wind up on another country’s shore. This interconnection between countries, and even continents, is difficult to get our heads around. In the fight against plastic pollution, everyone needs to play their part because everyone will be negatively impacted at the end of the day. 

So how are individuals taking part in the fight? While a lot of us explore new ways to upcycle at home (loving my new flower vases made out of peanut butter jars) artists from around the globe are focusing their creative genius on upcycling, raising awareness about something that deeply affects every single human on this earth.

It’s not the first time that art is used as a tool of social activism (think Banksy!) and so we know it is a highly effective method to capture people’s attention and drive home an important message. As French impressionist artist Edgar Degas once said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”.

Here are some awe-inspiring initiatives that undoubtedly put my flower vases to shame!

Yu Fang Chi

As part of an exhibition entitled Plasticology which launched in Perth, Australia in 2020, Yu Fang Chi featured her installationRemnant. A poignant, life-size composition of plastic bags hanging above the viewer, glistening in the light like fish would from the bottom of the ocean. The effect on the viewer is one of overwhelming uneasiness that we are being submerged by a gigantic wave of trash. 

Take a look at some of her other work here!

Yu Fang Chi’s 2019-2020 work Remnant in Form’s 2020 exhibition, Plasticology. Photograph: Taryn Hays/Form

Jen Fedrizzi and Katie Williams

Jen, a professional photographer, and Katie, an activist, and artist, join forces to appeal to the general audience to rethink their consumerism and wastefulness in an attention-grabbing 5-hour dance in the front window of a building in San Francisco. This dynamic duo collected single-use plastics and wore them, in what has been dubbed a “trash suit”. Predictably people stopped in their tracks to stare and take pictures. Scroll through their website for the official snapshots!

Benjamin Von Wong

Benjamin is an artist in Montreal that plans to leave nothing up to the imagination: he is building a mammoth 10-meter installation made out of (yes, you’ve guessed it) trash. Intending to alert people of the calamity we are facing, Benjamin is creating a suspended faucet that will regurgitate trash. Unsurprisingly, given the immensity of his project, he is reliant on a team of volunteers to help him bring together the pieces. 

You may recognize Benjamin’s name (or style) on account of another of his successful, unforgettable, and high-impact pieces of work featuring a mermaid drowning in plastic. This image serves as a stark reminder to the public that soon oceans will be filled with more plastic than fish.

Check out his amazing artwork on his official page

Benjamin Von Wong

Arcadia Earth

Arcadia Earth is a cutting-edge enterprise addressing the ecological crisis by bringing together a number of environmental artists and their work to a unique location, currently in New York but with openings shortly in Miami and Las Vegas. In a whirl of light and art, Arcadia helps artists project their voices through immersive experiences, including detailed augmented and virtual reality installations. This entrancing initiative, spearheaded by Valentino Vettori, aims to provide a positive journey for the audience, combining the exhibition with positive, informative storytelling to compensate and counterbalance what many may consider a grim topic. 

Lose yourself on their colorful website and book a visit!

Artists from around the world are taking matters into their own hands, reaching out to the public with formidable installations that cannot help but catch your eye. Like everyone else, I marvel at their creativity with plastic, but I have to focus on their message too. Plastic pollution is a real, global issue with roughly 18 billion pounds of plastic ending up in the ocean every year. With plastic production set to triple by 2050, we need torefuse plastic. Refusing single-use plastics like straws, shopping bags, water bottles, and switching to reusables, will help offset the growing production and the lack of recycling infrastructure in place to dispose of it (we wrote a blog post about the recycling myth - click here to learn more!).