Just weeks after his three-storey art installation filled with a lifetime of clothing “World’s Tallest Closet” was displayed in Egypt exploring the first world’s obsession with consumption, visual engineer and ‘artivist’ Benjamin Von Wong is at it again, creating an art installation made from 168,000 used plastic straws in Vietnam.
While the original design was created with the help of San Francisco-based technical builder Nick Moser and Stefan Suknjaja an escape room designer in Serbia – local set designer Fosha Zyang helped to bring the concept to life.
Taking just over six months to complete and an army of volunteers, the 3.3 metre (10ft) towering art installation made of used plastic straws formally entitled “The Part of the Plastic Sea” (aka #strawpocalypse) has finally been erected. The art project aims to highlight the world’s ocean plastic problem and encourage people to say no to disposable plastic.
“”It’s just one straw, said 8 billion people.” With my latest piece, I wanted to find a unique way to showcase the threat that our ocean and future generations are under,” writes Von Wong on Instagram.
“With a truckload of plastic flowing into the ocean every 60 seconds, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed – but I’ve always believed that its less about what we can’t do, and more about what we can do – even if it’s something as small as saying “No Straw please”.”
With the support of Zero Waste Saigon, the sponsorship of Starbucks Vietnam and dedicated volunteers, it still took almost two weeks to clean, organise and prepare the used straws to build the plastic sea. “At just $10 for 100,000 straws [on Alibaba], it would have been super convenient to buy a ton of them and figure something out – but that was clearly not an option.”
Each year, almost eight million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the ocean; a high percentage of discarded plastic pollution are plastic straws. In fact, of the top 10 plastic items collected by volunteers at one of the world’s biggest beach cleanup events, the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, plastic straws rank at number seven, after cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles and caps, and plastic bags.
Last year Collins Dictionary even named “single–use” as the word of 2018, reflecting the increasing global awareness in environmental issues, however environmental group, Strawless Ocean, estimates that Americans still use 500 million straws per day and the team of experts behind the War On Waste TV program estimating that Australians use 10 million straws per day.
Through his art work Von Wong wants the plastic pollution conversation to begin with plastic straws – but he doesn’t want it to end there. “Although this installation is made from straws, it isn’t just about straws. It’s about taking a first step towards paying attention to the plastic epidemic threatening the oceans we rely on.
“If things don’t change by the year 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in the sea. While statistics like that can appear daunting and impossible to fight against, it all starts with small simple actions.”
The art installation can be viewed in the atrium of Estella Place, a retail podium located at the Estella Heights condominium in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
For more information about this art project, visit Von Wong’s website here.
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All images courtesy of Benjamin Von Wong.