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What Does One Year of Plastic Look Like?

What Does One Year of Plastic Look Like?

If you saved all the plastic you used each day for a year, this is what it would look like.

Not the guy - although that is the face every mother should love for the work he has just done to show us a few facts of our life.  Check out the plastic.

Daniel Webb is an artist in UK and after saving every piece of plastic he used for a year, he has built a mural as a billboard (13 metres x 4 metres), currently on show at Dreamland Margate.

It all started when Webb was out running one evening by the ocean and noticed that the current had bought in a lot of debris, along with seaweed. Most of the debris was plastic and from the languages on the packaging, it had clearly come from all over the world - some of it very old.

It made Webb wonder if any of the plastic floating around in the sea was his and he decided to start collecting every piece of plastic he used for a year, clean it & store it. He really had no intention of turning it into an exhibition until about half way through, when the rising plastic mountain was taking over his spare room and he got the idea to create an exhibition of it - and presumably himself! 

It is worth noting that Webb didn't change any of his habits for the experiment and there are no plastic water bottles because he didn't buy them before the experiment.)

The statistics of his haul

Over the year, he collected 4,490 pieces of plastic, of which 93% is single-use throwaway packaging, with only 4% of it being recyclable locally. 

More than half of the packaging was food packaging at 60%. 

Surprisingly, only 1.3% of all the items were made from recycled plastic.

Of the entire haul of 4,490, only 8 were biodegradable. Having said that, we don't know the conditions under which the biodegradable claims were made in any event. 

Webb is a marketer and says that when he came to lay everything out for photographing and cataloguing, it occurred to him for the first time just how much visceral design goes into package marketing to get you to buy the contents. "We really are being sold stuff we do not need. There is an epidemic of overproduction and overconsumption.”

And there you have one of the single biggest reasons why it's so hard to get away from buying things you don't need. The machine is simply much smarter at selling you stuff you don't need than you are at saying no, especially if you aren't concentrating

Webb lives in a town where there is limited kerbside recycling and says he used to take his recyclables to the local recycling centre. But when he asked for the location of the plastics recycling, he was told to put it in with his household waste. (And you might be surprised how many cities around the world are in the same position. We are simply creating billions of tons of stuff that does not break down and we have no means to dispose of.)

What is to really love about this experiment ? The home truths.

The sheer volume of what Webb created has made him realise, “Recycling is absolutely vital, and we need to invest more in recycling facilities and infrastructure. But really, we need to find ways of using less. 

...making people realise that changing your whole lifestyle is difficult, but just changing one thing is still really important. I didn’t buy a water bottle last year and I might have used 300 – if everyone did that it would be saving a lot of plastic from going into the sea.”

You can find more information on Daniel Webb and his work on his website, Everyday Plastic. Please check him out. We will certainly be stalking his work.

Images: Material Lab | Ollie Harrop
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