Making Art with Plastic Waste

Image credit: Plastikophobia

We take a look at how artists are creating art not for art’s sake, but for the planet’s, highlighting the plastic pandemic through the powerful use of waste.

Art has long been used as a powerful creative tool for political and social activism- from Picasso’s Guernica to Banksy; Childish Gambino’s This is America to Beyonce’s Lemonade

With plastic pollution and climate change at the forefront of everybody’s minds, it’s no surprise that artists are starting to look at our waste in a new way, creativing powerful art works that are not only beautiful, but also serves as a stark reminder of the impact of our waste on the planet and its inhabitants, and inspire us to rethink our own consumption.

Here are some art works created purely from our plastic waste:

Help the Planet, Help the Humans Installation

A new installation by Maria Cristina Finucci – artist and president of the Garbage Patch State – opened in Milan during Salone Del Mobile in Milan (remains open until April 19th). 

The Help the Planet, Help the Humans installation,part of the Human Spaces event exhibition, has been created using two tonnes of plastic bottle caps contained in red net food bags placed inside PoliMac cages by Officine Maccaferri, to spell out the word HELP, as if it were a cry from humanity in order to curb the environmental disaster of the pollution of the seas, currently underway.

This is the third time that Maria Cristina Finucci has launched a desperate cry for help, after the performance Help in Rome at the Roman Forum (2018) and on the island of Mozia in Sicily (2016). The artist states: “During these years in during which I made installations in various parts of the world to denounce plastic in the oceans, my project has been transformed and is not limited to the impelling environmental issue, but places it at the center the individual and the whole life on the planet.”


Plastikophobia is an immersive art installation made from 18,000 plastic cups collected from local food centers across Singapore to raise awareness for single-use plastic pollution. The installation is currently on display at Sustainable Singapore Gallery until April 18th 2019.

Artists Von Wong and Joshua Goh teamed up with Social impact strategist Laura Francois and almost a hundred volunteers over the course of ten days to bring this project to life.

Watch the making of Plastikophobia below.

Mural-by-the-Sea, Everyday Plastic 

‘Everyday Plastic’ by Daniel Webb. Photo © Ollie Harrop 2018. Image courtesy of Everyday Plastic.

After collecting all of his plastic waste for an entire year, Daniel Webb was commissioned to produce a giant billboard-size mural that went on display at Margate’s vintage amusement park, Dreamland.

Following analysis, Daniel’s collection of waste was found to consist of around 4,500 pieces of plastic, of which 93% is single-use throwaway packaging, with only 4% of it being recycled in the UK.

Having laid out all of the plastic to the exact size of the billboard, the piece was photographed by Ollie Harrop using a 5m high by 6m wide rig and the items were captured at actual size. The final piece measures 13m wide by 4m tall, and such was the volume of plastic, it required 20 individual photos to be taken and then stitched together in post-production.

“It’s a colourful, abstract and beautiful representation of my life in 2017, yet it shows the extent of the problem of disposing of our plastic waste responsibly,” says Daniel.

Read more about the project in Daniel Webb’s Life As I Know It and watching the making of the Mural-by-the-Sea below.

Wave of Waste

For World Ocean’s Day in June 2018, beer brand Corona and charity Parley for the Oceans collaborated to create a plastic ‘wave’ sculpture in front of a London billboard featuring actor Chris Hemsworth surfing. The plastic wave was made using beach litter collected by The Marine Conservation Society from Holywell beach, East Sussex. Londoners were also invited to drop off their plastic waste at the site of the billboard in Old Street. 

“As a brand that is synonymous with the beach, we are seeing the destruction of shorelines and oceans up close,” said Felipe Ambra, Global VP of Corona, of the installation. “Our ads usually showcase paradise the way we assume it to be, pristine and beautiful, but today it’s increasingly hard to find a beach without plastic. Through our work with Parley, we hope to reverse this trend. This World Oceans Day, Corona wants to remind the world that we all need to protect our beaches to continue enjoying them.”

Space of Waste

Image credit: David Parry/PA Wire

Last May, London Zoo (ZSL) unveiled a 16ft high installation made from 15,000 discarded single-use bottles collected from London and its waterways, including thousands collected from London Stansted Airport.  The structure – dubbed ‘Space of Waste’ – was designed by artist Nick Wood and supports the #OneLess campaign, which aims to protect the world’s oceans from the impact of plastic pollution by encouraging people to use refillable instead of single-use plastic bottles.  It took three weeks to prepare in the artist’s studio and another three days to erect on site and housed information about plastic pollution and the small steps everyone can take to help tackle the growing issue. 

“Building this piece with ZSL was a satisfying challenge, as plastic bottles are not usually seen as a building material – recycling them into this structure, which will remain at ZSL London Zoo all summer, was a great way to turn the culprits themselves into a stark visual reminder of the worsening plastic problem in our city,” said artist Nick Wood.

Washed Ashore

Non-profit Washed Ashore builds and exhibits aesthetically powerful art to educate a global audience about plastic pollution in oceans and waterways and spark positive changes in consumer habits. The Washed Ashore Project was born when artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi’s started noticing immense amounts of plastic pollution on the southern Oregon beaches. As she learned more about ocean pollution from plastics and marine debris she became motivated to do something about it. Rallying her small community of Bandon, Oregon, she inspired volunteers to help clean beaches (more than 10,000 volunteers to date) and process over 20 tonnes of debris into over 70 sculptures of the animals affected by plastic pollution.

These sculptures now tour as the “Washed Ashore Project” and Angela has a team of dedicated employees and hundreds of volunteers. Angela has vowed that this effort is her life’s work, and “until we run out of plastic on the beach, we will keep doing our work.”

Inspired to cut down on your plastic waste? Read Melissa Hemsley‘s 10 Simple Swaps to Cut Down on Plastic.

For more ideas, see our Everyday Refillable Swaps to Help Reduce Waste.