The problem is, our plastic waste—and the spaces that this waste persists in—often exists away from human inhabited environments and is hence something that is not pressing and immediate in our everyday thoughts. The tendency of consumers to regard waste as having disappeared or been taken care of once discarded into bins has caused a general air of disregard and inaction when it comes to addressing how our plastic is affecting the environment and its inhabitants. Given that plastic doesn’t just simply ‘disappear’ like a garbage bin or landfill may lead us to believe, then where does our plastic waste end up after disposal, and what happens to them?

In the Whitsundays region of Queensland, Australia, there is an ocean clean-up organisation by the name of Eco Barge Clean Seas [link to website: https://ecobargecleanseas.org.au/] who regularly hold volunteer clean ups of the surrounding beaches in the Greater Barrier Reef area. The bags and bags of plastic they collect on each trip are not just the results of careless litter; there are many ways that our plastic—even if properly disposed of—can end up in these environments, one of which may be its dislodgement from bins and garbage trucks by wind or through the transition of travel. 

On a visit to Eco Barge headquarters, what was found amongst the bags of plastic they collected was a particular phenomena of interest; plastics which have warped over time in their marine environments. Physical changes such as algae growths, coral growths, oyster growths, melting and warping begin to demonstrate how plastics behave away from human use and environments. They begin to shed light into how plastics in this particular context lives.

The problem is, our plastic waste—and the spaces that this waste persists in—often exists away from human inhabited environments and is hence something that is not pressing and immediate in our everyday thoughts. The tendency of consumers to regard waste as having disappeared or been taken care of once discarded into bins has caused a general air of disregard and inaction when it comes to addressing how our plastic is affecting the environment and its inhabitants. Given that plastic doesn’t just simply ‘disappear’ like a garbage bin or landfill may lead us to believe, then where does our plastic waste end up after disposal, and what happens to them?

In the Whitsundays region of Queensland, Australia, there is an ocean clean-up organisation by the name of Eco Barge Clean Seas [link to website: https://ecobargecleanseas.org.au/] who regularly hold volunteer clean ups of the surrounding beaches in the Greater Barrier Reef area. The bags and bags of plastic they collect on each trip are not just the results of careless litter; there are many ways that our plastic—even if properly disposed of—can end up in these environments, one of which may be its dislodgement from bins and garbage trucks by wind or through the transition of travel. 

On a visit to Eco Barge headquarters, what was found amongst the bags of plastic they collected was a particular phenomena of interest; plastics which have warped over time in their marine environments. Physical changes such as algae growths, coral growths, oyster growths, melting and warping begin to demonstrate how plastics behave away from human use and environments. They begin to shed light into how plastics in this particular context lives.

Why we like this

ELEMENT: AFTERLIFE

The environmental story of our planet has become a political stalemate, forcing humans to draw lines, make decisions and dig in on whatever side of the issue they fall. Math, science, truth and fact are now considered gray areas, as least to some. So how does one tell a familiar story in a new way? Megan Wong gives it a go with her take on plastics, and salute the effort to allow us to see old realities with new eyes.

Bio

Megan Wong is a designer with a penchant for discovering the unseen. She uses her practice of visual communication to sensitively bring forward the hidden and secret lives of objects living amongst us and makes comment on the ways we interact and use them. 

Her probe into the afterlife of plastic, and how they might be used to foster ecological consideration in consumers, is being conducted as part of her research Masters at the University of Technology, Sydney.

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