Let me start by saying yes, yes I know, this is long overdue but the post you have been waiting for is finally here!
Over the last 10 months, I worked on a project that seemed kind of crazy and far fetched. The project was to collect, transport, de-label, wash, sort, count, design, attach, light, and parade-down-the-street as many plastic water bottles as we could in order to make a statement. We wanted to demonstrate what Region-wide consumption of bottled water looks like and the potential environmental harm these bottles can cause. This calls for some ‘Sculptures by Numbers’ to properly explain this process:
- 6315: Number of bottles collected in total
- 5716: Number of bottles used in sculptures
- 140 metric tonnes: Weight of plastic bottles collected via residential pickup each month in Waterloo Region
- 500 000: Number of bottles collected from residences in Waterloo Region per day
- 20 minutes: The amount time it takes the Region to produce the number of bottles used in the exhibit
And those are just the bottles collected from people’s houses that actually end up making their way into the recycling. Consider all of those that find their way to landfills and litter our environment instead.
After several iterations of designs, our bottle sculptures took the shape of four ocean creatures: a sea turtle, a jelly fish, an octopus, and a sting ray. Every year, more and more human-made garbage makes its way to our oceans and it is estimated that plastic in the oceans contributes to the death of over 100,000 marine mammals and one million seabirds each year.
I implore you to make changes in your life to combat the wasteful habit of one-time use plastic and encourage those around you to do that same. There are so many different ways to make a change! Look for goods that have less packaging when deciding on purchases. Carry reusable bags with you to the store. When you see litter, pick it up! Choose tap water over bottled water. And talk to your employer about making a similar switch. Its cheaper, safer, and more convenient! And remember to BYOB – Bring Your Own Bottle. Within the Region of Waterloo, look for businesses that display the Blue W sticker in their windows and encourage community events that have a Water Wagon on site instead of bottled water.
If you missed Night\Shift but would like to see the sculptures again, you will still get the chance! The Creatures of the Gyre pieces will be on display at the Waterloo Region Museum this winter. I believe it will be as part of their Oceans Bound! exhibit, opening on January 30th. Check back here for details as they become available.
I have to mention some very important thank yous for I could not have even dreamed up this project on my own. Thank you Night\Shift for helping in the creative development and funding of this idea for the last year and to Kitchener City Hall and the Kitchener Market for providing such epic building and display spaces! To the University of Waterloo, with emphatic appreciation for the amazing Plant Operations team, Engineering Orientation Week, and the Rudolph Group lab. You made bottle collection downright fun! For their encouragement and support, I must thank the Students of the Water Institute: Graduate Section and the Region of Waterloo Water Services. Messaging and man power, you guys are amazing! To all of my friends who helped for hours on end to make this a reality and for enduring the smelly bottles and sharp chicken wire – I couldn’t do anything without your help! Sondra, Stephanie, Amy, Eric, Yarko, Emma, Dede, Mina, Liz, Adriana, Graham, Peggy, Cathy, my mom Laurie, Drew, Mads, AJ, Liana, Colin, Peter, Sylvie, Victoria, Rahul, Maricor, Nathanael, Cass, Jill, Meg, Brad, Tim, Kevin, Jacob + anyone I might have missed, I am so lucky to have the opportunity to work with each and every one of you! This was such a new, big, exciting, challenging, scary, exhausting, exhilarating process and I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to bring this work to life.
Now enough talk! I think that these photos speak for themselves. I have included scans of my initial designs, messily sketched, photos from the washing and building stages, haphazardly shot, and tributes to our hard work, proudly captured. Check them out: