It is essential but polluting. It saves lives, yet it chokes our oceans. It’s cheap to create but expensive to dispose of. It can last forever, but is often used only once.
PLASTIC has changed our daily lives and our environment more than any other material. We can’t live without it. But living with it might not be an option for much longer.
Plastic is not just widespread: it it literally omnipresent. It’s found in all the usual places: electronic devices, motor vehicles, buildings, bathtubs, shoes and chairs. Our hospitals, airports, power plants and server farms are unimaginable without plastic. But new research is turning up plastic waste in unexpected places, and in frightening quantities. From giant Pacific rubbish gyres to Antarctic ice peppered with microplastics, from beehives to organic meat, plastic seems to be everywhere we look for it. What will be the long-term effects of this relatively new but incredibly long-lasting substance?
To stop using plastic is not an option. As an aesthetic material for artists and designers it is unparalleled, and its use has revolutionised industrial design. More essentially, modern medicine relies on plastic so heavily that even the most basic medical procedures would be unimaginable without plastics. Plastics have great power, and with great power comes great responsibility.
What does the future hold? There may be cause for cautious optimism. Plastics are a global (but relatively recent) problem, meaning our environment and our culture has plasticity — we can mould and change it, both intentionally and unintentionally. Material scientists are investigating plastic alternatives, manufacturing and recycling processes are rapidly evolving, and artists and designers are developing new ways to modify our single-use consumer culture. The unsustainability of our relationship with plastic is obvious, and the clock is ticking. Can we utilise this wonderful, terrible material, and can we fundamentally change our approach to living with PLASTIC?
PLASTIC opens Friday 25th of October 2019 and runs until Sunday the 9th of February 2020.