This #PlasticFreeJuly, artists are turning to the streets to make a statement. Writer, speaker and environmental activist Bel Jacobs goes behind the scenes of ‘Let’s Live With Less Plastic’ – an urban exhibition using our cities’ billboards to raise awareness about waste.
Six months ago, the conversation around plastics was heated and focused; today, as the world grapples with the realities of a virus that appears unwilling to lose its hold, plastics have fallen out of the limelight. In fact, in response to rising infection rates, the use of single use plastics is actually going up: in face masks and disposable containers, in PPE and packaging.
As Nienke Hoogvliet, a designer who explores sustainable materials, told Dezeen recently: “There’s a global trend that single-use plastics are increasing again. The amount of discarded face masks I have seen in the streets already is daunting.”
Images: ‘You Are The Ocean’ by Tia Grazette and ‘No Oceans No Air No Life’ by i on billboards in London
But if there is one truth about plastic that no one disputes, it is that it never, ever really goes away. Every day, 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean; that’s about 300 million tons a year. Unless it’s burnt, it can take hundreds of years to break down and yet recycling rates are poor: of all the plastic waste ever created, only 9% has been recycled.
Ten years ago, the Plastiki, a majestic 60-foot catamaran made out of 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles and other recycled PET plastic and waste products, set sail from San Francisco. The brainchild of David de Rothschild and Michael Pawlyn of Exploration Architecture, the Plastiki was built using cradle to cradle design philosophies and featured many renewable energy systems, including solar panels, wind and trailing propeller turbines, and bicycle generators.
Its route to Sydney, Australia included plans to visit several sites that were either ecologically important or which were susceptible to environmental issues caused by global warming such as sea level rises, ocean acidification and marine pollution. Along the way, the catamaran raised awareness via the mainstream media of plastic pollution and the importance of the oceans like never before.
Image: The Plastiki recycled plastic catamaran sets sail from San Fransisco in 2010
To celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the Plastiki Expedition and #PlasticFreeJuly, a new exhibition of artists is urging people to live with less plastic. Curated by creative director and environmental advocate Tia Grazette (Founder of www.legoodsociety.com) and member of the Plastiki project, the work is being displayed on large digital billboards in major cities across the UK including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle throughout July and online at www.legoodsociety.com.
‘Now, more than ever, we need to remind and encourage everyone how important it is to limit their plastic usage – and what better way to do this than through art?” says Tia Grazette. “More and more people have put plastic-free thoughts to the back of their minds as they deal with the urgency of the Covid-19 pandemic but plastic pollution is escalating at a dramatic rate, as the oceans now begin to fill with disposable plastic masks and gloves like never before – on top of all the other everyday single use plastic items.’
Artists involved include a host of up-and-coming and established talent, such as Sarah Maple, Todd Francis, Jef Gillette, Dianna Cohen, Heath Kane, Iona Magnus, LUAP, Paul Davis, Aaron Axelrod, I Fucking Hate London, Tia Grazette, Lois Winstone, Charlie Arsan and Illuminati Neon. Playing on the effects of plastic on the oceans, the art is acerbic and angry – whilst hugely witty. Charlie Arsan’s exploding turtle and Heath Kane’s still life paintings encompass all levels of grief while Jeff Gillette’s riffs on popular culture issue a damning indictment of current systems.
Image: ‘No Oceans No Air No Life’ by i and ‘The Plastic Flood’ by Luap in London
i (yes that’s his name) is an old school street artist who has worked with both Eine and Space Invader, amongst others, shifts his focus on to the importance of the oceans. ’We are intrinsically linked to the oceans; without them the human race will not survive,’ he says. “It does not make sense that we would destroy the one thing that gives us life’.
Florence Poppy Deary on the other hand who uses everyday experiences as inspiration for her art states, ’With my piece, I wanted to illustrate the frustration I have with humanity. When we talk about saving the planet, we are actually talking about saving our species. And when we kick and scream against those that tell us to stop wasting plastic. We are fighting to kill off our own species. Ridiculous.’
While their work is broadcast across the billboards, fine artist, photographer, creative director & serial experimenter Paul Robinson of LUAP is exhibiting his ‘PLASTIC REALITY’ installation in the window of Its Club House in Mayfair.
Images: ‘Drowning The Ocean’ and ‘Seawatercolours’ by Paul Davis
Several original artworks and prints are available to buy online at www.legoodsociety.com including the Seawatercolour-insult-bottles series by Paul Davis and his limited edition Seawater-bottle sculpture. Using seawater, ink and watercolour, Davis’ range of widely used water-bottles is decorated with choice words, the artist’s signature skill, aiming to raise consciousness that single-use plastic (or any plastic for that matter) is a habit that needs breaking – and fast; its effects on the miraculous and finely tuned ecosystem that is planet Earth, our only home, are too devastating.
As Davis points out: “We are to blame, not the plastic. We are the fools.”