12 January 2011 by Julienne du Toit

Where’s the ‘Away’ in Throw-Away?

There are two problems with plastic. One is that it’s designed to be thrown away. The other is that it lasts forever.

Google the ‘great pacific garbage patch’ or just ‘plastic soup’ and you’ll see what’s happening to it in just one part of the planet. Or you could just watch this rather disturbing clip from Youtube.

Basically, rubbish has washed down America and Asia’s rivers for decades and it has now met somewhere in the middle, making a floating dump the size of continental North America. The plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, but never quite goes away. In fact, the tinier the piece, the more likely it is too poison fish and even phytoplankton.

The central Pacific is just one of five ‘gyres’ in the oceans of the world, places where currents swirl together.

On that very subject, there’s a great exhibition at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, featuring the work of Simon MAX Bannister, an environmental activist and artist. It’s on until April 2011.

Bannister has created mythical monsters out of polyethylene and reclaimed litter he has picked up from the coast, from streets and landfill. It’s called Plastikos, and portrays an imaginary floating land of strange beasts.

He says: “I see plastic as an ambivalent resource material, reflecting the effect of humanity’s impact on the interconnected living organism of Earth.

“With Plastikos and its mythical monsters I wish to create a tangible reflection of the beast that plastic pollution presents. This calls for the hero in each of us to confront this issue, to overcome the fear and ignorance we feel and look for the treasure hidden within a resource that must be used wisely and respected, not buried, burnt and thrown “away”.”

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