A Singapore art installation of 18,000 cups is raising awareness of single-use plastic pollution

  • Fri,15 Mar 2019 12:03:18 PM

The past few years has seen something of a single-use plastic revolution. A lot more of us have bought reusable water bottles and are shunning straws as we think about the impact we’re having on the environment.

However, the fight is far from over. Not only is a lot of single-use plastic incorporated into our lives – from cups to shampoo bottles – but not everything you put in the recycling bin is a problem solved.

Artist Benjamin Von Wong wants to raise awareness around these issues. He actually refers to himself as an “artivist” because he is only involved with work that has a social impact.

The finished installation (Von Wong/PA)

Von Wong’s latest piece of work is called Plastikophobia and tackles single-use plastic. He collected 18,000 dirty plastic cups around Singapore, and with 30 volunteers over the span of two days, cleaned the cups and arranged them into an installation to represent the sheer scale of the problem.

Volunteers help wash the dirty cups (Von Wong/PA)

Von Wong collaborated with social impact strategist Laura Francois on this project. Even though what they’re doing won’t physically change the environment, Francois is more concerned with winning hearts and minds. She hopes the installation “might have a ripple effect” and cause people to think more about single-use plastic.

Attaching cups to the structure (Von Wong/PA)

For Von Wong, this isn’t about making a pretty piece of art. Instead, he wanted to make it confronting, and melted the cups together to “make them look as creepy as possible”.

The final product is lit up with lights and has an almost spooky feel, like you’re in a warped underwater cave.

Von Wong takes photographs of his work (Von Wong/PA)

In the past, Von Wong has made similar installations to raise awareness about the impact man is having on the environment – earlier this year he was recognised by the Guinness World Records for creating the largest straw installation.

With this project he collected used straws in Vietnam to create a structure which looked like the parting of the sea. It had a similar message – to show people how little actions can really add up to something big.

It’s not just people using plastic that worries Von Wong, but also the rate at which it’s being properly recycled. He cites statistics from the Singaporean National Environment Agency which say that, in 2017, only 6% of plastic waste was recycled.

The name “Plastikophobia” is about becoming more adverse to using plastic, and the goal is to “use art to kickstart research into disposable plastic cups usage in Singapore, creating an immersive space to spread the feeling of Plastikophobia.”

The project is on display in the Sustainable Singapore Gallery until April 18.

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