How I use art to tackle plastic pollution in our oceans | Alejandro Durán

How I use art to tackle plastic pollution in our oceans | Alejandro Durán


This is Sian Ka’an. Just south of Tulum
on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, it’s a federally protected reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most biodiverse
regions on the planet. But when I first visited in 2010, I was horrified and completely confused as to why the beach was covered in trash. I soon realized that it was floating in
from all over the world. I’ve since returned,
after that first journey, several times a year to visit Sian Ka’an,
to the country of my birth, to work with this trash. And so far, we’ve documented garbage from
58 different countries and territories on six continents, all washing ashore
in this paradise in Mexico. Although I can never know
where a product was dropped, I can, at times, based on the label,
know where something was made. In red, you see all of the countries
represented by their trash in Sian Ka’an. Such as these Haitian butter containers
in all shapes and sizes, Jamaican water bottles. Not surprisingly, a lot of the stuff
is from neighboring Caribbean countries, but the stuff is from everywhere. Here’s a sampling
of international water bottles. And one of the ironies is that
a lot of what I’m finding are products for cleaning
and beautification, such as this item from the United States, which is actually made
to protect your plastic, (Laughter) shampoo from South Korea, bleach from Costa Rica and a Norwegian toilet cleaner. And it’s items that are all
very familiar to us, or at least I hope you’re familiar
with these toothbrushes. (Laughter) Kitchen utensils. Toys. I’m also finding evidence
of burning plastic trash, which releases cancer-causing
fumes into the air. People ask what’s the most
interesting item that I’ve found, and that’s by far this prosthetic leg. And in the background, if you can see
that blue little bottle cap, at the time that I found it, it was actually the home
to this little hermit crab. This guy is so cute. (Laughter) (Laughter) And it’s these fascinating objects, but also horrifying objects, each with their own history, that I use to make my ephemeral,
environmental artworks. And it all started with this image
in February of 2010, when I first visited Sian Ka’an. I noticed that blue was the most
prevalent color among the plastic. Purple is actually the most rare color.
It’s kind of like gold to me. But blue is the most prevalent, and so I gathered some of the blues and made this little arrangement
in front of the blue sky and blue Caribbean waters. And when I took a photograph
and looked at the test shot, it was like a lightning bolt
hit me in that moment, and I knew I was going
to have to come back to create a whole series
of installations on location and photograph them. So this turned out to be a sketch for a work that I completed
three years later. I had no idea that almost 10 years later, almost a decade later,
I’d still be working on it. But the problem persists. So I’m going to show you
some of the images from the series that I called “Washed Up:
Transforming a Trashed Landscape.” Please keep in mind that
I do not paint the garbage. I’m collecting it
and organizing it by color on the same beaches where I find it. This is my precious trash pile
as seen in 2015 after putting on a first edition
of the “Museo de la Basura,” or “Museum of Garbage.” It’s fully my intention
to care for this garbage, to exalt it, put it on a pedestal and to curate it. We have all seen devastating images of animals dying
with plastic in their bellies. And it’s so important for us
to really see those and to take those in. But it’s by making aesthetic —
some might say beautiful — arrangements out of the world’s waste, that I’m trying to hook the viewer to draw in those that might be numb
to the horrors of the world and give them a different way
to understand what’s happening. Some have described
the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as an island twice the size of Texas, but I’ve been told that it’s hard to see because it’s more like a smog. So through my artwork, I attempt to depict the reality
of what’s happening with our environment and to make the invisible visible. My key question at first,
after starting the project, was, “What do I do
with the garbage when I’m done?” I was told by some
that it could be damaged goods after traveling across the ocean
and being exposed to the elements, that it could become degraded
and potentially ruin a batch of recycling. The landfill was not
a happy resting place, either. And then finally, it dawned on me, after all of the effort by me
and all of the people who have helped me collect and organize and clean this trash, that I should keep it. And so that’s the plan, to use it and to reuse it endlessly to make more artwork and to engage communities
in environmental art-making. This is an example of a community-based
artwork that we did last year with the local youth
of Punta Allen in Sian Ka’an. A key part of the community work
are the beach cleans and education programming. And as this community
around the project grows and as my trash collection grows, I really believe that
the impact will as well. And so, over the years, I’ve become a little obsessed
with my trash collection. I pack it into suitcases
and travel with it. I take it on vacation with me. (Laughter) And in the latest work, I’ve begun to break the two-dimensional
plane of the photograph. I’m really excited about this new work. I see these as living artworks that will morph and grow over time. Although my greatest wish
is that I run out of the raw material for this work, we’re not there yet. So in the next phase of the project, I plan on continuing the community work and making my own work
at a much larger scale, because the problem is massive. Eight million tons of plastic waste
enter our oceans every year, destroying ecosystems. Right now, as I speak, there’s literally
an oil spill of plastic happening. I see this project as a plea for help
and a call to action. Our health and future
is inextricably linked to that of our oceans. I call the project “Washed Up:
Transforming a Trashed Landscape,” but it’s actually transformed me and made me rethink
my own behaviors and consumption. And if it can help anybody else
gain more awareness, then it will have been worthwhile. Thank you so much. (Applause)

78 thoughts on “How I use art to tackle plastic pollution in our oceans | Alejandro Durán”

  1. Nice Video interesting approach to help with pollution. I have a business development firm and my channel is dedicated to helping. If I can help you let me know

  2. Sure. Putting waste into colored piles will sure safe the earth. Once the "art" installation loses its novelty (after around 2 minutes) it's back were it came from. This childish thing is cute to a certain degree but not a solution! Hipster Hippies will not save the earth, science and engineering will (hopefully). Total waste of everybody's time! And wow, pack it into your luggage and fly around the world with your trash (this will pollute the world more than it will do good you genius)… even stupider than one can imagine lol. What the eff TED, where do you get your speakers from?

  3. Felicidades! Muy bella forma de crear consciencia a través del arte, a través del holismo bravo! mi admiración y respeto para ti.
    La tarea más difícil es educar a la gente de todo el planeta, enseñarlos a cuidar el agua a separar la basura y a reciclar o a reusar todo lo que se pueda utilizar para un propósito diferente, como frascos de vidrio contenedores de plástico, o cajitas de cartón o madera etc.
    Lamentablemente de todo hacen un negocio los que están en el poder y frenan todo, hasta que ellos son los dueños de las plantas recicladoras, desde que yo recuerdo y tengo59 años mis padres nos enseñaron a separar la basura y les dábamos a los recolectores de basura el cartón, metal, aluminio y vidrio por separado (ni había mucho plástico cuando era niña) y ellos tenían un espacio donde lo acomodaban ahora ya no pueden porque “alguien” (político) es “dueño de la basura” y los recolectores ya no la pueden separar para venderla porque hay gente en el basuron que recolecta esa “basura” para ellos, por supuesto con un misero salario, ese ingreso extra que tenían quienes trabajan para el h ayuntamiento con un miserable sueldo y con todo lo que separaban podían obtener dinero extra ya no se puede.
    No es la misma escarbar entre la basura buscando lo reciclable a separarlo de antemano, en fin! 😢😞
    Que bello será cuando en Mexico y en todo el mundo haya maquinas recicladoras de vidrio como en Argentina (que están en el supermercado ahí mismo agarras tu Plata) y otros países y maquinas para cartón, aluminio y plástico.
    Me agrada que solo hablas del plástico de basura y gracias a Dios no mencionas la madera o cartón como una buena opción para sustituir el plástico. El plástico se empezó a usar porque el mundo se estaba quedando sin pulmones ahora están volviendo al cartón papel etc y eso me precocious más.

  4. Tremendous gratitude to Mr. Duran for raising awareness and sharing his creativity 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾

  5. Is need conservation of the nature. ..poluition in beach that's no good. .In Brazil also the beach very poluition with plastic

  6. Charles Ian White, a man who really turns trash into amazing objects that csn be used at home. What you're doing is putting trash with trash on the coast to make it look pretty.

  7. I don't think you found any of those surprisingly intact and colourful pieces of plastic. UV rays would limit your palette wildly. I hope you make sure you pick all of them up after you scatter them about in nature and take your photograph.

  8. But how does he collect all of this garbage once he's done?
    Where does he store all of it?
    It would have been better if we had a more useful way of disposing of it instead…
    Everyone is aware of the garbage/plastic problem at this point, and those who still pollute, from everyday people to big companies, simply don't care, I'm afraid. I feel like we're beyond the point where things like this could help (if he instead made immovable statues out of them, it would have at least helped clean it up a bit), at this point what we need is better regulation and fines/laws against polluters, new technological solutions to help us deal with all this trash (picking it all up is less of a problem I think, disposing of it safely is the real issue), and lastly, we need new, greener materials to replace the existing ones. Just raising awareness isn't as useful anymore at this point.

  9. It's interesting how people would utilize their mindset to degrade someone like this man trying to make a difference about pollution. He's simply using HIS METHOD of trying something different. He is tired of pollution and he has an artistic side so he puts it together. Simple. Stop pull people down and look at yourself first and ask yourself if you are doing anything better. And you can tell he's no professional speaker, but he's trying to get his point across. Seems like nothing at all can please some people and those who are degrading him, I'm sure you're not even making an effort like he is. So re-evaluate your life's before pointing fingers. Can't believe people who claim to be adults say such immature things. And as well, everybody who's on TED Talks, they're all different and try to add what they know and understand to help in some small way or another. If it's not for you, say how they can improve, not degrade someone. I could only imagine how some of you grow your children up. It's so sad the mentality of people who claim to be so mature nowadays.

  10. I have the biggest problem with recycling contractors taking a profit, but exporting plastic waste without laying a finger on it.

    Instead of banning everything at the expense of every citizen, perhaps these folks should face criminal charges on grounds of fraud instead.

    We should outfit everyone with the proper skill level with a filament extruder and 3D printer to re-use this at home.

    Anyone lacking that skill level should have a melter/compactor unit to make bricks that could be used as pavers, or at least allow for landfill without the danger of going airborne. Best-case, they could process bricks for recycling by their recycling code.

    Another thought would be using electricity to burn it under a vacuum. This would turn it into nearly pure carbon while volatiles burn off under lower temperatures. Those could be recovered and possibly reprocessed into fuels or chemicals necessary for industry.

    I’d support corn-based plastics, but land use becomes problematic with a steadily increasing world population. One day, it’ll beg the question — “would you rather eat, or have fuel and plastic?”

    Nonetheless, education remains the best use of our efforts.

  11. Maybe humanity is unconsciously dumping their garbage into the ocean in protest over nuances such as hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, lightening strikes, snow storms, flooding etc. That explanation would at least make the mass population insanity of humanity's careless garbage ocean dumping some what justified.

  12. I have seen several „trash collecting“ videos from all over the world (f.e. Japan, Philippines) where people meet up once or twice a month to clean beaches from trash! I don’t know if you were the inspiration for this, but who ever comes up with all kinds of „trash actions“ is a hero for me! Thank you 🙏👍✌️💜

  13. • 3:33 – "On the same beaches where you find them"‽ So there's that much garbage on those beaches that you can pick out that much of those colors? 😲 🤦
    • This is both heart-breaking and beautiful. 👍😕
    • He should sell his photographs to raise money for environmental charities.

  14. Thank you! I really hope you run out of raw material. And if people want to help please REDUCE! And don't buy single use water bottles!!!! Say no to Nestle!!!

  15. I'm glad to know that there are many people in the world saving the Earth. I'm very happy with your work, your trash collection and your creative photographs and idea. I hope that your work will inspire more people in our world. Thank you for your video. It makes me feel very happy and motivates me to do something good for our environment. Please reduce plastic guys!

  16. Want to solve plastic waste issues? Make companies that produce plastic waste bring in equal amounts of environmental plastic waste as they have used to produce their products annually.

    Consumers consume. We will consume whatever products are available, if those products harm the environment and we need them to survive then we will consume them. That is literally in our genes. So understanding that means that how we solve product pollution is not at the consumer level, but at the manufacturing level. If we MUST produce waste to get the goods we need for survival then those that produce that waste instead of finding better solutions should be the ones to clean it ALL up.

  17. Starting my three-year project myself. Gotta check myself and others for societally collective efforts that exist in them, so as to keel Us aware that there's harm in caring too little too much

  18. They should find a way to make plastic containers and or materials dissolve safely in sea water no more trash in the ocean problem solved 🤷🏻‍♂️

  19. So you haven't actually "tackled" any problem. You've just rearranged the plastic you have found and put them on the same beaches you have found them on (your words, not mine) and no doubt profit from the photos etc…

  20. Fabulous work. Another good way to help the ocean is to use Ekoru.org which is an ocean friendly alternative to Google.

  21. Spent two houses, all my families money, my assets and credit fighting this in a series of lawsuits for 30 years. Who's responsible? Our Government and the CEOs that own it. I have many thousands of documents, studies, secret files, hours of expert testimony, and yet it gets worse. toxic microplastic has displaced half the plankton in my lifetime as plankton goes all life will soon follow. It deters global warming, creates most of our oxygen, sequesters CO2 and feeds billions.

  22. 🦋so awful, we need to have respect for our earth 🌍 you only get one life, better leave your mark in a good way

  23. I like to listen every video in this channel, i hope the translated have INDONESIA langauages, so with that I can understand clearly. I love this channel with all the video

  24. Thank you, Mr. Duran, for your selfless work. thank you for using your art to raise the alarm – to get us to look + listen. Your pieces are breathtaking + at the same time alarming💫

  25. Please everyone who watches this, do something to lower plastic usages, whether it's eating less meat, going for eco friendly packaging, going by non fossil fuel,…

  26. I am korean. I'm sorry about shampoo plastic bottle. I was surprised. because South Korea is so far from there. And your great message delivered so well to me. Altough we are far from away, too.

  27. It's so important for us to realize this is only planet, it's high time we consider how it's important to stop using plastic.
    I am from Bengaluru, INDIA.
    I would like to be a part of this activism stated by one beautiful soul,
    Just let me know how can I be a part of your activism in anyway possible. – KrayonZ

  28. Please help me to fundraise as much money as possible to help keep the plastics out of our oceans… this organization is working as hard as possible to keep them clean and out of the marine life's way. @t

  29. You can say it’s a experiment to see whose wins
    Paper has no meaning to my
    I will see the whole match till end

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