The One Week Plastic Challenge

TRASH: Art + Science Intersect panel on Feb. 6.

Each year, Americans trash enough plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times. How big is your impact?

We posed this question to attendees of our Feb. 6 “Trash: Art+Science Intersect” event, co-hosted with The New Children’s Museum. The panel discussion explored ways to leverage both science and art to tackle our society’s plastic problems.

The audience left with a challenge: Collect your plastic trash for one week. The idea was based on The Midden, an installation within The New Children’s Museum’s TRASH exhibition that showcases four years of plastic trash collected by the artists. Our goal: to bring to light just how much plastic trash we accumulate individually.

Participants were invited to upload their photos to our Flickr Group or email them directly to us. Below are some of the comments we received:

“I was surprised to see so much single-serve packaging (brownies, cheese sticks and candy mostly) that is not recyclable. Thankfully, San Diego now recycles a LOT of different plastics! It was enlightening to collect and examine this stuff!”

“39 items. Yikes”

“I thought we were pretty minimalist but the plastic kept piling up!”

“I am embarrassed to reveal that we generated 90 pieces of plastic last week, although most is recyclable. With our heightened awareness, we will consciously try to use less. I even plan to show my photo to our local Trader Joes since most of the stuff is from them.”

A local business even participated! The staff at H.G. Fenton Company created this plastic pyramid out of their trash.  The company, which actively works to make its business practices more green, is using the challenge as a launchpad to involve even more employees in creating a sustainable workplace. Thanks for participating!

Last, but not least, Birch Aquarium joined the challenge (see “fish sculpture” below, crafted by awesome intern Addie). Our staff is already aware of the overuse of plastic and constantly striving to minimize our impact on the planet, yet it was striking to see just how much plastic trash we accumulated collectively. Each of us really does make a difference.

Tips for Reducing Plastic Waste:

• Reusable shopping bags. Keep several in your car. Just do it.
• Don’t use a straw. Imagine how much plastic could be saved if you sipped your soda directly from the cup!
• Buy boxes, not bottles, when possible (e.g. laundry detergent).
• For the ladies: cardboard applicators, not plastic.
• Reusable cups/coffee mugs. Starbucks will thank you with 10 cents off your mocha.
• No need to put produce in those plastic bags. Just make sure to wash it when you get home.
• Use brown grocery bags instead of plastic ones for your trash. You might have to take it out more often, but think of what a nice thing you’re doing for the planet!

TELL US: How do you reduce your plastic waste?

Plastic Challenge Participants:

(see our gallery for all photos) 

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  • Erik H
    March 1, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Again, glad to see you guys taing the initiative to support eco-friendly measures like this…. It really means a lot to people like myself who are in the aquarium or coral business in some way shape or form.

  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego