The streets of London (as well as the streets of any other city on this planet) are heavily polluted by plastics, non-recyclable and other slowly biodegradable mismanaged litter, which eventually enters the rivers and flows into the ocean, or becomes the non-decomposable matter destined to be forever layered in the landfill.
It’s nearly impossible to measure how much of marine debris, most of which is plastic, is currently floating and being dumped in the oceans and seas, but the numbers must be staggering and rapidly growing. According to Jenna Jambeck, Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering from University of Georgia, “An estimated 5-13 million tons of plastic enter our oceans each year from land-based sources”(Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean, Science, 2015, p. 768-771). The Ocean Conservancy estimates that as much as 150 million metric tons of plastics are already circulating in our oceans right now. In Indonesia, anthropogenic (human caused) debris was found in 28% of individual fish and in 55% of all species. Similarly, in California, anthropogenic debris was found in 25% of individual fish and in 67% of all species. (Rochman, C. M. et al. Anthropogenic debris in seafood: Plastic debris and fibres from textiles in fish and bivalves sold for human consumption. Scientific Reports volume 5, Article number: 14340 (2015).
The project “Plastified“ comments on both the producers and consumers’ detrimental recklessness and the commonplace disregard for the immediate environment we live in. Observing the London streets overflown with uncollected litter and tracing the problem back to the research on and facts about the man-made waste and plastic pollution became the crucial starting point for this project. The photographs zoom into the problem and try to imagine how our oceans and rivers would look like in the near future if people will continue rubbish the surroundings, whether those are the streets, beaches, or waterways. Species and organic matter trapped in the meshwork of man-made debris, lifelessly floating in the water contaminated by the by-products of chemical and oil industries. There are drowning synthetic particles and fibres which are to be shredded into small bits, or microplastics, by waves and sunlight, and to be ingested by marine species and birds. There is potentially toxic construction waste being domestically drained and released into the oceans. All the materials, mainly throwaway and single-used, ranging from the styrofoam food containers to inflatable balloons, from plastic bags to beverage cans, ropes and gift wrap, utilised in this project, were collected on the East London streets in April 2019. This project exposes the local problem and links it to the broader scale and the overall situation which remains bleak and globally unbalanced. While The European parliament is backing a wide-ranging ban on items such as plastic straws, cotton swabs, disposable plates and cutlery by 2021, and proposing to make 90% of plastic bottle recycled by 2025, more than half of the plastic waste and consumer junk in the ocean coming from just five Asian countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, according to a 2017 report by the Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment.
The government’s ban on using certain synthetic organic polymers and imposition of taxes on the production and import of plastic packaging alone is not enough - it’s down to the people to reframe their mindsets and start thinking more environmentally in order to see the repercussions of the simple act of throwing a plastic lid on a global scale. There’s no ecosystem left being unaffected by ongoing pollution, that threatens the entire humankind and other species existence. This project aims to raise consciousness and to address individual responsibility for waste management, while insisting on the urgency of changing the central role that plastic plays in daily life and taking the collective action to make that happen.