Conceptual photographer Benjamin von Wong has worked on dozens of incredible campaigns, helping to raise awareness for everything from Sanfilippo syndrome to the dangers of thinking that little recycling gestures don’t make a difference.
Gearing up for our launch of #plastikophobia made from 18,000 used plastic cups! Super excited to see this one get out into the world!
After doing a campaign to raise awareness for the plastic waste accumulated in poorer parts of the world—which involved dragging hundreds of empty plastic bottles out into the middle of the water and setting up a fake “sea” of plastic—he turned his sights on plastic straws. And as impressive as the plastic bottles photoseries was, the outcome of his straw campaign is the most eye-opening of his series yet.
My Modern Met explained that Wong was inspired to do something about the waste produced by plastic straws when he heard the phrase “It’s just one straw, said 8 billion people.”
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Determined to show people just how quickly straws can add up, he collected a whopping 168,000 of the plastic drinking aids. Working with Zero Waste Saigon, Starbucks Vietnam, and groups of volunteers willing to gather them up, he made sure that every straw he collected wasn’t furthering the issue; everything he snagged was already used, forming a sort of recycled project to raise awareness for recycling.
Then, he got to building.
In a blog post, he detailed how he put together all 168,000 straws to form a massive, 11-foot tall “parted wave,” dubbing the project “The Last Straw” and then pulling out his camera to highlight just how big a wave of pollution could truly be. The result is both beautiful and jarring; this is a project you won’t be able to tear your eyes from!
“Every single piece of plastic ever made still exists on the planet today in some form,” he wrote on Instagram.
“How terrifying to think that all those tiny purchase decisions we make add up to so much over one lifetime. The parting of the plastic sea, built from 168,000 straws hopes to focus on one tiny part of the problem: straws , to ignite a greater conversation.”
The project was installed in Estella Place in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. There, everyone from kids to the elderly can walk through the waves, feeling the impact of just how big the “wave of waste” is before thinking about just how small that installation is compared to the true number of straws wasted.
The plastic straws debate has become a hot topic in the world of environmental protection in the last handful of years. While it remains a vital tool for the disabled community—after all, bendable plastic drinking straws were first invented for use in hospitals as patients recovered their regular motor function—the prevalence of single-use straws for even the abled community in nearly every restaurant and coffee shop in the world makes it a massive form of waste. According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, the United States alone uses over 500 million plastic straws every single day; Wong’s installment makes up just 0.003 percent of that number.
“By the year 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in the sea,” Wong wrote. And as he observed, it’s not just about straws; they make up a small fraction of the total plastic pollution being dumped in the sea each day. It’s about raising awareness for how even making little changes can add up and make a huge difference in the long run.
The installment left Ho Chi Minh City in late March and will head to a new home eventually. For Wong, his hope is that it will find a forever home before long—so the world can always see just what needs to be done to save the planet.
"We don't inherit this planet from our parents, we borrow it from our children" #Plastikophobia is a creative interpretation of a word we believe needs to start existing. Imaginator Studios and myself built this installation out of 18,000 used plastic cups that were collected in just one day and a half. You can visit and share it at the Sustainable Singapore Gallery from March 7th to April 18th. Read more: https://blog.vonwong.com/plastikophobia/
Posted by Von Wong on Friday, March 15, 2019