Death by Plastic (Moab)
My ongoing environmental concerns led me to research the lifecycle of plastic in hopes of addressing the attendant issues of this product which is both incredibly useful and undeniably one of the leading causes of pollution on the planet. The result of this research is a series titled “Death by Plastic.” The piece aims to draw attention to issues of refuse and recycling by highlighting the plastic products regionally that are no longer profitable or possible to recycle.
For two decades, I have used Southern Utah as a base for my projects in the West. My work in the Moab area specifically has made me acutely aware of the infrastructure for waste management in a small community that is seasonal infiltrated by tourism. It is my connection to this place and my admiration for the communities’ recycling efforts that inspired the initial phase of the project in which I constructed a casket out of Plexiglas to bury myself under plastics that cannot currently be recycled in the area.
This piece came about from a feeling of helplessness (in terms of my own consumerism), but also as a way of drawing attention to the items that we think (or hope) are getting recycled and are instead being landfilled. Many of us have long assumed that the recyclables we were carefully cleaning and sorting were being processed and eventually re-used. The reality is that our planet is being smothered in plastic.
I hope this piece will resonate with diverse communities and have multiple iterations. Ideally the work will expand to isolate plastics regionally by number that are not being recycled, resulting in: “Death by Plastic #1”, “Death by Plastic #2”, “Death by Plastic #3”, “Death by Plastic #4”, “Death by Plastic #5”, “Death by Plastic #6” and “Death by Plastic #7” where applicable. I also hope eventually, to welcome people from all walks of life to pose in the casket.
“Death by Plastic” would not have been possible without the enthusiasm, good-will and support of Sara Melnicoff at Moab Solutions and Evan Tyrrell at Director of Grand County Solid Waste Special Service District.