Everywhere you go, you will see single use plastics. People like using single use plastics because they seem convenient, recyclable and inexpensive. Most plastics isn’t recycled and the 9% that is, can only be recycled once. Every piece of plastic you've ever used is still on this planet today, and will stay there for thousands of years to come. Between 2010-2016, The US was responsible for more plastic trash than any other country in the world. These millions of tons of plastic translated to 300 pounds of plastic trash per person in the US. The production of single use plastics are a major contributor to climate change, and yet it still feels very difficult to change our dependancy. However we must relook at our habits.
If we want to make real changes with our plastic consumption habits, we need to start educating others about how big the plastic crisis really is. We can start by implementing plastic themed curriculum into schools.
For my art class plastic curriculum idea, students (of all ages) can get a better understanding of how dependent we are on plastics, by creating a plastic collage.
Step 1: the students will collect single use plastics in their house for a whole week. Students will find plenty of disposable plastics in their kitchen and bathroom. By the end of the week they should have a box full of single use plastics in all different colors.
Step 2: Record all the the types of plastics: plastic bottles, plastic bags, toothbrushes, laundry jugs. Look and see if there are any reusable products you can use instead of plastic. Check your local department of sanitation website for what is recyclable in your area and know the proper way to recycle. For example, In NYC, only Ridge Plastics, or hard plastics: 1, 2, 3 and 5 can go in your blue box recycling bin. Plastic bags and wrappers know as low-density polyethylene can be recycled but only at stores that accept them to recycle. But reality is our planet and our health is better off if we cut down our use of plastics. Have your students talk to their parents about what organic or reusable products can be used instead of plastics.
STEP 3: Sort out your plastics by color. With the wrappers and bags, (low-density polyethylene plastics) we are going to make a collage. Each student should draw a picture of their favorite outdoor place (ie; a beach, park) so they should have an idea in mind when they sort out the colors.
next, the students can bring their chosen plastics to art class and draw a sketch of their favorite outdoor place on mixed media paper.
when the students have their sketch, they can lightly color it in with colored pencil to figure out what color goes where.
then, they can go through their plastics, sort out the colors they need, cut them in to small pieces, and glue them on the paper.
Now some of our plastic is getting a new use as art. After spending a week collecting plastics at home, students should reflect how much plastic their families really use, and think, “do we really need all of this?” “are their alternatives we can use?”. We need to start cutting off plastics, and a good start to that is knowing what we can and can’t live with out.
It is being reused. It can not be discard and not thought about. There is time to reflect on the amount of plastics we use daily and how it stays in our environment permanently.
Example Plastic Collage
Check out this great video explaining the steps to the plastic curriculum project.
Project Vortex is an organization of artists from around the world, advocating against plastic pollution through art. The Project is founded by Aurora Robson, an artist who makes wall decor out of single use plastics and junk mail. Project Vortex’s mission is to educate others about single use plastics, especially students in school. Artists in the organization put together plastic themed art curriculums for schools, one of them being Aurora Robson’s college course “sculpture + Intercepting the Waste Stream”. Students would collect plastic waste at rivers, creeks, and streams, and turn the waste into sculptures that would later go up for auction, or to an art gallery.