As we return to “normal” the impact of balloons for birthdays missed, plastic utensils used at large family gatherings, and other waste generated by the pandemic, will leave a lasting impact on our oceans and lakes – far outlasting the pandemic. Uncontained Consumption depicts the human impact of our consumption on our oceans and lakes.
From afar, each image appears to be a seemingly painted seascape featuring beaches and oceans. Upon closer inspection, however, white foamy waves become paint splatter resembling styrofoam; textured rolling waves instead appear to be plastic bags floating in the water; subtle ocean blue tones are revealed to be grease stains dotted with grains of dirt or gravel representing microbeads found in face soap and toothpaste. Each piece is inspired by an original photograph of an ocean or lake which was then recreated by layering bits and pieces of photographic abstracts featuring the outside walls of dumpsters found littering our streets through digital collage. The final result for each piece is of a body of water consumed by waste that can no longer be contained by the dumpsters used to collect the detritus from our consumption.
Every minute, one garbage truck worth of plastic is dumped into the ocean. Over 220 million tons of plastic are produced each year, 8 million tons of which finds its way into our oceans, while 22 million pounds enter the Great Lakes each year. This was all pre-COVID-19.
While the pandemic kept us off the roads and out of the air improving air quality around the world, we used over 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves each month, globally. Like plastic, masks get carried by the wind or water runoff, eventually finding their way into our lakes and oceans.
Compounding the issue is a collapse in the oil market making plastic cheaper than ever to produce. As a result, single-use plastic such as plastic utensils has sky-rocketed with an increase in takeout. Most of this kind of plastic is not recyclable, is its estimated that 2020 saw an increase in waste of 30% over the amount produced in 2019.
All of the waste that makes its way into our oceans and lakes is destroying ecosystems and marine life. It is estimated by the year 2050 plastics will outweigh fish in our oceans.
While the pandemic nears its end, the waste generated during the last year and a half will far out live us and generations to come. If we don’t contain our consumption, it will eventually consume us.