#Strawpocalypse: Using Art to Help Save the Environment

Artist Benjamin Von Wong's "Strawpocalypse" installation.
Artist Benjamin Von Wong's
Artist Benjamin Von Wong’s “Strawpocalypse” installation. (Credit: Benjamin Von Wong)

“It’s just one straw, said 8 billion people.”

This line is what inspired Canadian photographer and artist Benjamin Von Wong to create his latest socially conscious art installation “The Parting of the Plastic Sea.” The stunning art piece is currently on display at the atrium of the Estella Place retail mall in District 2 of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, until March 24, 2019.

Using 168,000 discarded straws, Von Wong and a team of volunteers created a nearly 11-foot tall wave to highlight the growing plastic pollution epidemic the world is facing.

Benjamin Von Wong's
Benjamin Von Wong’s “Strawpocalypse” art installation featuring thousands upon thousands of used straws. (Credit: Benjamin Von Wong)

In collaboration with Zero Waste Saigon and Starbucks VietnamVon Wong and hundreds of volunteers began collecting, cleaning and sorting used straws. The blues, blacks, and greens were used for the base of the wave. The yellows and oranges formed the sand. The whites made the froth on top of the wave. The team also incorporated used plastic bags into the installation as fillers and light filters. The cleaning and sorting stage lasted about two weeks, while the entire creation took six months to complete.

According to the Ellen McArthur Foundation, by 2050 there could be more waste plastic than fish in the ocean if nothing is done to change the production and use of plastics. Every minute, one garbage truck’s worth of plastic flows into the ocean. Only about 5% of plastics are actually recycled. Saying “no” to straws is one of the easiest ways to avoid using plastic in daily life, although more than this will need to be done to save the seas.

Mermaid lying on 10,000 plastic bottles for #MermaidsHatePlastic, another Benjamin Von Wong's socially conscious art project.
Mermaid lying on 10,000 plastic bottles for #MermaidsHatePlastic, another Benjamin Von Wong’s socially conscious art project. (Credit: Benjamin Von Wong)

“The plastic problem is either out of sight, out of mind – or so omnipresent that it becomes invisible,” stated Von Wong. “I wanted to use art to tackle both angles – by creating something beautiful and unique out of an environmental tragedy.”