Everyday Plastic
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 Photo: © Ollie Harrop 2018. Image courtesy of Everyday Plastic

Photo: © Ollie Harrop 2018. Image courtesy of Everyday Plastic

During a plastic-riddled coastal run along the Margate coast one September evening in 2016, I started thinking about what my own personal impact was on plastic pollution. How much plastic is in the sea? Is any of it mine? How much rubbish could one person living alone actually produce...?

Following this head-on confrontation with marine and coastal litter, I asked Thanet District Council about what recycling was available to me in my block of flats. The answer? None. Neither at my curb-side nor the local waste management centre.

Given that my the products in my local Aldi are pretty much all packaged in plastic, I found myself stuck between the complete inability of both avoiding buying plastic and disposing of it responsibly.

I decided that for the next 12 months, starting 1 January 2017, I would not throw away any plastic waste I produced. Not a bottle top, piece of bubble wrap, straw, toothbrush, salad bag, coffee lid or clothing label.

Twenty-two bin bags later, the results are as stark as they are shocking. I want to show and share with people what a year's worth of your plastic use looks like. It’s this simple ambition that forms the concept of Everyday Plastic and asks: what is our individual contribution to plastic pollution?



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Mural-by-the-Sea

 Photo: ©Ollie Harrop 2018. Image courtesy of Everyday Plastic

Photo: ©Ollie Harrop 2018. Image courtesy of Everyday Plastic

About Mural-by-the-Sea and StudioTAC

Funded by Dreamland, Mural-by-the-Sea is the brainchild of StudioTAC, a Margate based creative company who built and designed the steel frame incasing the mural. StudioTAC will be curating and organising the commission programme in collaboration with Dreamland and various art institutions.

Mural-by-the-Sea has Margate at its epicentre, focussing on local artists for the first three editions. The net will then be cast to Bristol for the fourth and there will be nationwide open call for the fifth.


The Shoot

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 12.5m 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 by Ian Hall.

Thank you

The Mural-by-the-Sea project wouldn't have happened without a lot of people, many of whom gave up hours, even days to help count, categorise, measure and weigh the whole plastic collection. So in no particular order, big thank you to:

Ollie Harrop Tess Acheson and Andrew Cross at StudioTAC | Ross Walker, Rachel Boot and all at Bon Volks | Rebecca Ellis, Meg Molloy, Nathan Hale and the team at Dreamland Julie Schneider Ian Hall Libby Northedge Richard Heneghan Jim Biddulph Matt Verity Luke Eastop Vanessa Brier Orla Dollman Jo Bridges | Annie Nichols Helen Pitman | Lisa Goldsworthy Rachel Ward Kashmir Flint Kezia Hanson Julie Bloomfield Emma McArthur Julia and Barenda Pretorius Will Hebditch Andy Aitken Jon Morales Cyril's Sandwiches

 



About

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What is Everyday Plastic?

From 1 January 2017, I decided that I would not throw away any of the plastic waste I produced. Not a bottle top, piece of bubble wrap, straw, toothbrush, salad bag, coffee lid, clothing label - whether I was at home or out and about - would be thrown away.

By the end of the year, 22 x 80-litre bin bags sat in my flat, filled to the brim with plastic items. Each one has a single fleeting function, yet an almost eternal existence.

The results are as stark as they are shocking. I want to show and share with people what a year's worth of your plastic use looks like. It’s this simple ambition that forms the concept of Everyday Plastic and asks: what is our individual contribution to plastic pollution?

This display of thousands of familiar pieces of everyday rubbish will clearly illustrate just one person's impact on plastic pollution in a tangible, visual and visceral manner.

Alongside the display, a robust and comprehensive report on my 2017 plastic usage will be released. This will outline how many items are in the collection, what percentage is RECYCLED versus what is RECYCLABLE, what will end up in landfill, exported, incinerated, sea-bound. Not only that, having weighed the entire collection, I can tell you how much petrol, oil, water and energy was used in both the manufacture and content of the plastic, as well as the carbon footprint.

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Dan, why the HELL did you save all your plastic for a year?

Margate, like thousands of coastal towns across the country, is overwhelmed by plastic pollution in its seas. It costs the council millions to clear its coastline each year. However, as I live in a flat, my local council - Thanet District Council - cannot offer me curb-side recycling. In fact, plastic recycling is limited to those who manually opt-in. The council is not proactive in outlining what can be recycled, or educating its residents about plastic pollution.

Reluctantly accepting this fact, I saved a bag of plastic to take to the local tip. When I arrived, there was no section for plastic. "Just dump it in the household waste, mate" said one of the onsite staff... Right, ok then.

If most of it is not being recycled, then how much plastic waste is each of us producing and where is it ending up?

This project will candidly convey the realities of our plastic production and consumption and its consequences.

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What are you looking to achieve?

This project’s primary aim is to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the UK and encourage action to prevent it. 

I’m not here to point fingers and tell you off. I want to understand the attitude of supermarkets, manufacturers, businesses, politicians, consumers, kids, restaurants, environmentalists etc. in an attempt to get a full picture of the state of the problem. 

Everyday Plastic has been a huge learning curve, and continues to be. Hopefully I can share some of what I've picked up along the way, as well as learn from you.

Let’s nip this in the bud now, while we can.