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Department of


Plastic Waste | OPN Masterclass

Course: ARCH 000
Students Involved: Alyssa Mullen, Christopher Perez, Easton Sothman, Wentao Zhong


By the year 2050, the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish, while 12 billion  metric tons of plastic will find its new home in landfills. Today, nearly 90 percent of the trash floating around on  the  ocean’s surface comes from plastic. Moreover, eight million metric  tons of plastic waste enters the ocean annually due to the 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile and the 300 million tons of plastic produced and consumed globally each year. Only ten percent of plastic produced and consumed on earth is recycled, and the  current  state  of plastic overconsumption seems to be far from slowing its pace.


Current researchers and scientists rely on the earth’s “natural” ability to decompose plastic every 400 years, but reality has proven that this is not a feasible solution to the plastic problem. Every minute, one million plastic bottles are disposed of, creating a cycle in which the hopeful decomposition of plastic can never be achieved. Therefore, we have created a new normal wherein our passive solutions have forced us to confront a reality in which continual plastic build up gives life to new land masses and creates unfamiliar densities.


This project speculates a museum of the future in which we can observe the affect that plastic consumption will have ultimately had on humanity and the creation of post-natural resources. The everyday domestic objects so readily made available for consumption have been cast away to the extent in which microplastics and waste have constituted the new landmass. The very material that millions of seabirds and marine mammals fell victim to now defines new boundaries on which we can reside. Historically, we produced enough plastic waste to circulate the globe four times, now, the very circulation of our ecosystem and life revolves around these new plastic landforms.


In the past, governments created incentives to deliver waste to the landfill in exchange for capital, in the time of this museum the new flow of capital exists through the process of extracting and mining the same material that was once used, and discarded, every day. The plastic lifespan has extended itself so much now to the extent that its lifespan has become their new geological formation.


In our diorama, we see the human condition of the past, which was the hyper consumption of plastic objects that led to the plastic conglomerate that creates the new landforms of their world. A museum in construction, all of the materials for consumption must rely on the quarry, which can be seen through the geological plastic build up that constitutes the spaces in which they reside. Rather than natural resources, society must rely on the post-natural resources of plastic geology and land. Within our post-natural, future museum, the diorama represents the way users have the ability to look back at the over-consumed plastic objects on the left, which made up everyday domestic life, and the way in which those historic artifacts have become materialized within the new geology of their world on the right.


This diorama represents the importance of us facing the reality of our daily use of plastic objects. Rather than presenting the idealized, optimistic solution of recycled plastic that is already hard enough to achieve, we must be confronted with the extent in which this over consumption could constitute a new geology and reality.

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