Fight trash with art – TrashArt

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Take a wild guess, how long does it take for a plastic straw to dissolve in nature? 

Two hundred years would have been the correct answer! 

Let’s try another one – how about a plastic water bottle? 

450 years!! 

To put this in perspective, if William Shakespeare would have been into drinking from plastic bottles but not into recycling, we might be still finding those bottles as historical treasures and displaying them in the museum! But, unfortunately, it’s a long time.

Inventing plastic began with a noble idea to protect our environment. The invention of plastic in 1869 by John Wesley Hyatt was rooted in the quest to save species that would be extinct. Before the invention, people used natural “polymers” to imitate plastic. These were extracted from ivory and tortoiseshell, endangering these species greatly. Plastic has some excellent characteristics and properties – it is durable, robust, flexible and lightweight. Also, it is water and heat resistant and inexpensive to produce. When Wesley invented plastic, he envisioned artificial plastic used in parallel with nature made polymers, but today most plastic in our household is synthetic. 

When plastic is recycled, it can be processed and reused to make new plastic products, which sounds like a great way to reuse it. However, in reality, today, only 9% of plastic gets recycled. For example, at any given second, 1 million plastic bottles are bought around the world. Yet, at the same time, only 90,000 are recycled. 

Plastic pollution in our environment has taken a toll on our nature, and more and more people have taken it into their hands to fight back and bring awareness to the issue. One of those people is Mandy Barker, a renowned photographer from the UK. She has dedicated her life’s work to raising awareness around the issue. Her work consists of collecting plastic debris from beaches worldwide and combining them beautifully to create masterpieces of creative art. Her work is exhibited around the world in museums and galleries to deliver the message and awareness. 

Mandy Barker – Penalty
Mandy Barker – Albatross Stomach

Inspired by her work, global VIVITA teams, together with the creative kids, decided to fight back trash by making their trash art pieces and discovering what they can do to reduce plastic waste in their households.

On one weekend in June, we at VIVITA Aotearoa met up with kids in Wellington Newtown Library to create a local TrashArt event. As homework, kids had kept and collected household plastic which they brought along with them to learn how they could reduce, reuse and recycle it. We also discovered how plastic gets made and what happens with it when it gets recycled. Lastly, they all decided how they could individually take a stance and pledge to help Mother Earth with reducing household plastic waste.

Inspired by the learnings and Mandy Barker’s mission, the kids were ready to create their work to raise awareness of the cause. For two hours, plastic was chopped, rearranged, de-constructed and re-created. The outcome of this work was eight large pieces of individual artwork. Each piece got photographed by professional photographers Rosa and Lisa, who joined the workshop as volunteers.

Keen to see the trash art?

In September 2021, VIVITA global community is showcasing the art in exhibitions around the world. All the individual artwork from our local artists will be exhibited in a gallery space in Wellington. Look out for our Facebook page or sign up for the newsletter to get a chance to be part of the opening night!

Virtual high five to our lovely supporters: Photographers Rosa and Lisa, creative mentor Allison, and Newtown Library for the great venue.

Thank you for your work and inspiration, Mandy!
See more of her work from