The accumulation of plastic products in the environment is at the point where they are creating problems for wildlife, their habitats, as well as for human populations.
According to the trade association PlasticsEurope, world plastic production grew from roughly 1.5 million tonnes per year in 1950 to an estimated 275 million tonnes by 2010. That number continued to jump higher by 2015 to an estimated 381 million tonnes. Of that plastic waste, between 4.8 million and 12.7 million tonnes end up in the oceans annually.
Perhaps if people were more scared of plastic they wouldn’t use so much of it.
That’s why a few years ago, Canadian Benjamin Von Wong changed his title from Photographer to Social Impact Artist. Since then, he’s used his creative abilities to produce projects that are both visually striking and encourage societal change.
Benjamin’s latest endeavour, Plastikophobia, is an immersive installation that raises awareness about the harms of single-use plastic pollution. He wanted to start a conversation about the types of cups that are used once and later end up in a landfill or the ocean.
“We don’t even think twice about how little sense it makes to use take-out cups within a dine-in setting,” says Benjamin.
In less than two days, Benjamin and his volunteers collected 18,000 used plastic cups from two dozen food courts across Singapore. They spent a further two days cleaning the dirty cups and getting them ready to be made into art.
Benjamin’s idea was to create a “selfie-ready” art piece that features a massive amount of discarded plastic cups. And with the help of local fabricator Joshua Goh, the team fashioned them into a a three and a half metre high crystal-like cave that glowed with tiny LED lights.
Once the installation was assembled, Benjamin documented it through his stunning photography. Their hope was that people, under the guise of taking a cool selfie, would realize that this entire piece was made with single-use plastics and think twice the next time they are offered one. Using cups also adds to the fear factor because of their circular rims, triggering in some people the feeling of trypophobia, the fear of circles.
“We wanted to get an idea of the number of plastic cups [food court] owners were giving out, and how many of those cups never leave the [food court],” says Laura François, co-producer of the project, and an expert in sustainable design and social impact strategy.
That number was the starting point for the sculpture.
Plastikophobia is currently set up at Sustainable Singapore Galleries in the Marina Barrage, and it will be up until April 18th. If you find yourself in Singapore, make sure to visit it.