Posts Tagged ‘recycling’

my plastic obsession confession

July 6, 2011

UPDATE: All of the plastic bits were claimed by a budding fashion designer, Sarah, who will make plastic couture with them. I’m so excited to have found someone who’s going to put all of my trashy treasures to use!

I’ve admitted this before, but I think I’ve lapsed into denial for a spell. Here’s my confession: I can’t throw plastic away. Mainly because I’m fully aware there is no “away.” Away is a hole in the ground in the best case scenario, and in the worst, away is in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (there’s also a North Atlantic version, though it seems to get less press) and perhaps eventually our bodies (by way of the fish who are eating the plastic thinking it’s smaller fish or plankton). I think of the harmless creatures who end up living with and consuming this eternal flotsam. How can I discard all of these plastic bits that inevitably end up in my home in seemingly benign ways? Surely I won’t stop buying glass bottles of olive oil (with a plastic cap) or milk (with plastic cap), or stop buying plants (that come in plastic starter pots). And so I collect.

{bucket o’ plastic}

obsession #6

My collection started back when I had a regular day job and still drank coffee. I started thinking about my daily cup and the plastic (#6 polystyrene, or PS) lid that kept hot java from spilling on me or my computer. I thought about how just little old me was using up at least 250 of these plastic lids a year (now think of all of the people in the office, in the building, on the block, in the city, &c). For some time, instead of bringing my own travel mug, I continued to utilize this “free” paper cup and plastic lid as my vessel. And I began collecting. But then I quit my job and coffee along with it. To freelance gigs, I’d bring my own mug and tea. Though I still had that collection sitting in a box at home…

{PS. i hate you. yes, i’m talking to you, smiley plastic bear!}

 

what doesn’t get trashed, gets stashed

The #6 obsession was just the beginning. Plastic tabs from bread bags, bottle caps, grocery store vegetable conveyances – it all became fair game. Whatever bits of plastic I can’t recycle now get stashed in what has been deemed the crap closet, aka The Library of Trash (we are blessed with abundant closet space). The intention with the collection was to create something, a sculpture perhaps, that would heighten public awareness to the plastic pollution problem. My inspiration was an image that is deeply embedded in my psyche, encouraging my obsession to thrive: a dead albatross, stomach cut open to reveal about a half a pound of plastic bits.

{tragedy as a source of inspiration}

 

obsessions are obstructive

The collection sits and grows. And although my library of trash has proved useful for other projects, this sculpture I dreamed up has not come to be. I’ve decided it’s time to move on and find a new home for all the petroleum-derived bits & pieces. I know it will never really have a rightful home because it will outlast us by many millennia (no known organism has been found to degrade #6 plastic – move over Iron Age, the Plastic Age will live on in infamy!). But I imagine it will make a good material for kids’ art projects or might make a fellow trash artist happy for a while. I’m posting it on Craigslist, Freecycle, Krrb, Facebook, Twitter & right here. Any takers?

{polystyrene comes in many forms}

{#3 plastic, aka, PVC, polyvinyl chloride. another plastic i love to hate}

{this sticker is likely made of vinyl}

{i bring this form of polystyrene to the local postal shop for reuse}

{i’ll reuse some of these as packing material}

{it’s hard for me not to picture some kind of sea creature caught up in these nets}

For more about how to avoid the dangers of plastic & other toxins, check out Plastic Albatross.

related posts:

when will demand for virgin resources be exhausted?

revisiting the 3 Rs

 

landscapes of extraction and e-waste recycling

January 4, 2011

Right on the heels of last night’s post about Manufactured Landscapes comes this, from Manhattan User’s Guide:

J Henry Fairs‘ extraordinary, consumptively beautiful, sickening photos of our ailing planet are gathered in a new book The Day After Tomorrow: Images of Our Earth in Crisis, released later this month. An exhibition of the photos, Landscapes of Extraction: The Collateral Damage of the Fossil Fuels Industries, will be at Cooper Union’s Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery starting January 20th.

I know I’ll be checking that out. It runs January 20 – February 26, 2011.

And to help reduce the need for extracting rare earth metals and other materials we scar the planet for, here are some opportunities for recycling your old electronics instead of kicking them to the curb (via Lower East Side Ecology Center, be sure to check their site for more details):

January 8, 2011 | 10:00am – 4:00pm Flyer(English) Flyer(Spanish) Directions
East 163 Street, between Southern Boulevard and Bruckner Boulevard, Bronx, NY

January 8, 2011 | 10:00am – 4:00pm Flyer Directions
Bowling Green Park east side, Broadway at Beaver Street, New York, NY

January 9, 2011 | 10:00am – 4:00pm Flyer Directions
Queens Botanical Garden, parking lot entrance on Crommelin Street, Queens, NY

January 15, 2011 | 10:00am – 4:00pm Flyer Directions
Tekserve, 119 West 23rd Street, New York, NY

January 16, 2011 | 10:00am – 4:00pm Flyer Directions
Prospect Park West and 3rd Street, Brooklyn, NY

January 22, 2011 | 10:00am – 4:00pm Flyer(English) Flyer(Spanish) Directions
Ring Garden, Riverside Drive between Dyckman Street and Seaman Avenue, New York, NY

January 22, 2011 | 10:00am – 4:00pm Flyer Directions
Habana Outpost, Fulton Street b/w South Portland Avenue and South Oxford Street, Brooklyn, NY

January 23, 2011 | 10:00am – 4:00pm Flyer Directions
Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, 331 East 70th Street between First and Second Avenues, New York, NY

January 23, 2011 | 10:00am – 4:00pm Flyer Directions
West 62nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, New York, NY

If you’re not in NYC, check out Earth911 for e-waste recycling near you.

every thing you own was made by human hands

January 4, 2011

Or at least parts of it were and then they were assembled, packaged, transported, and sold by humans. And every thing you (and I) have in your possession required energy – extracted and refined fossil fuels which require energy – to extract, manufacture, and transport it. Likely, part if not all of these things were made in China. And likely, part if not all of these things will end up back in China in the form of waste to be taken apart by human hands. And the ships that transported them to and from their new home and eventual grave were made in China by humans. And those ships go to die in Bangladesh where they are disassembled by human hands (and often by barefoot men between the ages of 18 and twenty something).

This monotonously unfolding chain of events is the subject of the documentary Manufactured Landscapes, which I finally just watched (it had been on my list for a couple of years). It may sound boring, but it is visually stunning and truly eye-opening. With minimal dialogue, the film shows us the work of Edward Burtynsky who has been photographing landscapes since the 80s. In a sense, the film is a culmination of his work as he delved deeper from extraction of earth materials all the way to the end of the line for the products and ships created with them. Of course, through this culmination we see the real impact of these activities.

The film sure got the wheels in my brain turning about this world we’ve manufactured. We’ve not only physically changed the way the landscape looks, we’ve changed the quality of the air, water, and soil. It’s the type of film that motivates me to reconnect with nature, to stop supporting a destructive economy, and to keep talking about what we need to do to move humankind in a more positive direction. I hope you’ll get a chance to check it out.

In the meantime, here is Edward Burtynsky’s TED talk about the film and the trailer.