Recycled Plastic

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Recycled Plastic

Reliques of the Plasticene

Symbol of the Anthropocene, plastic is now everywhere. It has polluted our soils and oceans, our food, and even our blood.

Since 1950, humans have produced about 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic, and at least 90 per cent is still in existence. It has leaked into the natural environment on a huge scale, and yet we continue to produce it at an ever-increasing rate. Plastic materials have become an intrinsic part of our ecology and environment and are being deposited into the fossil record, research has found, with contamination increasing exponentially since 1945.

Scientists suggest the plastic layers could be used to mark the start of the Anthropocene, the proposed geological epoch defined by the fact that human activities have come to dominate the planet. They say after the bronze and iron ages, the current period may become known as the plastic age.

Over geological time, plastic debris may be subjected to the same heat and pressure that form rocks and minerals. Future geologists may identify the remains of plastic bottles as fossils even if the plastic itself has degraded or been replaced by other materials.

Coline Le Quenven wonders what future civilisations are going to understand from ours when they dig through the plastic layers of Earth.

The project was deeply inspired by the recent discovery of Plastiglomerates, a new type of rock formed from plastic pollution melted with other organic elements such as earth, sediments or sand due to beach bonfires or other types of heat sources.

She wondered how can we craft these new types of conglomerates in the future and what would they look like.

She explored plastics and worked with them in diverse ways. She built an extruder to make 3D printable filament from strips of PET water bottles. Or she melted plastic waste with a heat gun, an oven, a hair straightener and even a sandwich toaster. Looking at traditional crafts, she wanted to translate them to apply them to plastics. Plastic is to her an amazing material that shouldn’t be wasted or thrown away. It is one of the most incredible and versatile materials we have ever discovered. It can be moulded, injected, remelted, cut, carved, extruded, or 3D printed. Plastic can achieve incredible looks from transparency to the shiniest surfaces and infinite colour possibilities. Using it as we do today makes absolutely no sense to Coline Le Quenven.

Imagining a time when plastic waste will be one of the most abundant materials on the planet, she sees crafting it and reviving its value as a way to build resilience in this wasteful world. She hopes to show that plastics are full of opportunities and that we should use this resource as much as we can.

As a collector of symbols and relics, of objects of the Anthropocene,
Coline Le Quenven scavenged for stones, fossils, bones, and disappeared animals in a digital form, that she then 3D printed and embellished in the hope of raising awareness about the matter and speculating on how plastic materials blur the boundary between the natural and the artificial, acting as the binder of new types of conglomerates.

Additional information

Plastic waste from food packaging, boxes, and beach pollution were collected and remelted together into conglomerates of matter. Some of the objects are partly 3D printed from extruded plastic bottles (PET) and PLA filament was used with a 3D pen to embellish them.

Ingredient list

PET, PP, PLA, HDPE, LDPE, PETG, PS

Photo credits

Coline Le Quenven