Life Cycle of Microplastics
Purpose:Raising more awareness about plastic usage in our daily life and visualize its impact from land to the ocean. Showcase the flow of growing chemical concentration-insidious implications for marine life and sea animals, and subsequently on human life through consumption; let viewers experience surprise, concern and grief. Call to action – to take responsibility and be mindful of our plastic waste.

This visual display intends to engage wonders, surprises, inquiries, discomforts, reflection, hope, and some “abstract space for pause” with the audience. The shape of the hexagon reflects the structure of plastics, also known as chain-growth polymerization, and the manufacturing process of plastic production. Amorphous solids are the common plastics we use as a function of connectivity, which is made from polymers – long-chain, small molecules, and carbon-based backbone act as building blocks.

Symbolic meaning…

– micro-macro-effects: Microplastics are plastic particles less than 5 mm in size. They can be found near and far – in skin exfoliants, toothpaste in the form of microbeads, and all around us in the oceans, rivers, coastlines, and soils, or locations with little human influence such as remote islands and even Antarctica. The large-scale plastics production and usage started in 1950 and the world produced only 2 million tonnes per year. By 2015, annual production had increased to nearly 200-fold, reaching 381 million tonnes. The largest market of plastics is packaging, which including single-use containers, plastic bottles, jars, tubes, and caps as one of the most substantial solid wastes and mostly land up in the landfill. The environmental impacts of incineration of plastic waste produce carbon dioxide, thus causes air pollution, which spread out in our environment from the air, our land, and the oceans over time.

– ripple effect: the interconnectedness of all lives from individuals to society to our environment and to the world, which manifests the relationship between humans and the planet. The impact of global plastic consumption is in the eyes of everyone. Plastic debris that is barely visible to the human eyes contaminate our natural environment and eventually convert into the microfibers of plastics, such as synthetic materials made from polyester or nylon. However, not all microplastics on land or in waterways will end in the oceans. They are widespread due to human activities- surface runoff from roads or agricultural land, direct littering on beaches or littering into rivers, direct input from sewage discharge, maritime or finishing activities, and industrial shipping. They have been found in all major ocean basins, with an estimated 4 to 12 million metric tons of plastic waste generated on land entering the marine environment in 2010 alone.

pathway to breakthrough and change: the collection of habitual thinking and behaves in our daily lives need to re-imagine and re-adapt bottom-up solutions to address the challenges of plastics waste and mismanagement.

philosophy: circular economy is the “design out waste and pollution,” which means to regenerate natural systems and rebuild overall system health by re-thinking the patterns of consumer behaviors as students and work effectively at all scales – from individual to business to producers, locally and globally.

Header photo by Rose @Lake Champlain, VT, USA

6/4/2018 7:40 PM

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