Do you know that black plastic is rarely recycled? When I 've asked around, not one person so far has known that black plastic is not recyclable.
Most people think that the recycle symbols indicate that it is "recyclable," so did I, but it is not. This was recently verified by my local recycling center. The recycling center, ReThink Waste, is now helping to bring this issue to wider attention and issued the following message on Twitter and Facebook to help me collect black plastic for a new artwork.
Black plastic is not recycled (even if it is labeled as recyclable) because most plastics are sorted by optical scanners that cannot "see" or recognize black plastic. Essentially black plastic can't be differentiated from other trash, so it goes into landfills, or even worse, goes into our oceans and waterways. (More on this topic in the next post.)
Yet black plastic is used pervasively for catering, take-out, deli containers, and microwave packaging. Pay attention to this issue and you will be shocked! Black plastics in the form of food containers, pen caps, bottle caps, black spindles, etc. -- all go to trash.
Here is one example. Shown below are twenty 12-inch diameter bowls from one event catered by Lyfe Kitchen. Lyfe Kitchen sells take-out and catered food marketed as sustainable. But there is nothing sustainable about using black plastic containers.
I contacted Lyfe Kitchen about the use of black plastic. They responded: "...we are in the midst of a packaging vendor transition on the West coast. We have been diligently looking to source a more sustainable option for our catered salads container pictured here."
Now I am immersed in making a "Black Plastic Gyre Necklace" that will be 24-feet long. The "necklace" will wrap relentlessly around a model, again and again, to convey the accumulation of plastic debris that is clogging waterways, strangling animals, and damaging coral reefs. The piece is intended to highlight the impact that plastics are having in our oceans and rivers.
For the past six weeks, I have been frantically cutting tentacle shapes from black plastic containers to create the gigantic Black Plastic Gyre Necklace to meet an exhibition deadline.
There is nothing green about this black plastic.
I'm finding that the enormous variety of black plastic items allows me to cut out some very interesting shapes.
Interestingly, each black plastic container inspires different shapes. The above photo includes exquisite shapes cut from a Noosa yogurt lid. The lid was soft yet flexible, ideal for cutting curvilinear shapes. I can't imagine why this brand uses black plastic lids.
Why do cookies and candies come with a black plastic insert? Only because I think someone thought it looks good or sophisticated. This is another example of unnecessary plastic waste in packaging.
One of those 12" black plastic salad bowls (shown above) provides a lot of plastic. In the photo below, I am starting to cut it up into pieces for the necklace.
If you would like to contribute your black plastic to this project, contact me to drop off your plastic or mail it to me. The idea is to raise awareness about plastic in our environment and become an advocate for change.
Stay tuned for more posts about progress on this necklace and the local makers who I hired to help meet a tight deadline.
This Black Plastic Gyre Necklace is destined for an exhibition titled, Uneasy Beauty. Curated by Suzanne Ramljak, it will be in an exhibition at the Fuller Craft Museum. If you're ready for more, check out the page on my website that has more images and information.