Líderes: Jimena Leiva-Roesch y Manuel Mansylla
Miembros: Michael Shouten, Richard González, Thor Raxlen y Jodie Dinapoli
Fundada en Nueva York y Guatemala, 2008; opera globalmente
How has the practice of the group members evolved since its inception?
Edward D. Goldberg, renowned marine chemist, predicted that plasticizing the ocean
would become one of the global challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. This is
not only true today but it adds itself – and in some cases contributes – to the list of
global environmental challenges such as deforestation, desertification, retreating
glaciers, and sea-level rise that we are now faced with. The exponential increase of
human-made substances that are constantly released into the environment – as a direct
result of mass production and consumption patterns – ought to be defined as the
culprit of such global scale phenomena, yet there seems to be no collective awareness
that we are the root cause of the problem. These issues have not gained the needed
recognition because they seem so remote from our daily life appearing as if they do not
have a lasting impact on our immediate environment.
Up until now plastic pollution has remained in the realm of oceanography, prioritizing
on the creation of more accurate scientific analysis before further steps are taken. But
while most organizations addressing the issue focus their attention on beach clean-ups
and campaigns to keep plastics from entering the ocean, yet the inescapable fact that
these issues are linked with densely populated areas as a result of direct and indirect
human influence is something that has been left unattended; keeping the battle away
from our homes, our workplaces and our everyday life. Out of sight and out of mind.
But unbeknown to many, plastic pollution has very little to do with oceanography, but
much more to do with solid waste management, global economy and markets, material
science, watershed hydrology, and countless of other disciplines, if we are to even
consider the possibility of remediation a multidisciplinary approach needs to come in
place. With the current trends of plastic production and the rapid increase of nonbiodegradable
waste flowing down rivers and lakes, the worlds oceans are far from the
end of this. In order to truly give the oceans a break – so that they can naturally spin out
the trash floating in them – we need to start by changing the way we relate to
disposable materials and increase our understanding the long term effects of plastic
For example: China produces four times more plastic than what it consumes, and the
U.S. consumes four times what it produces, yet a significant amount of recycled plastic
recovered in the U.S. gets shipped back to China to produce more plastic goods that
are then shipped back to the U.S. in the form of new products.
This example constitutes the the kind of global scenario that the average person does
not keep in mind when accepting a plastic bag for a small purchase at the local
pharmacy. People need to understand the larger picture and have these things on the
top of theirs minds, specially if we expect a lifestyle change.
How did the members of the group meet?
The initial conversation that gave way to our collective did not happened on land, nor
water; It so happens that it happened on the air while overflying the Atlantic ocean in
the summer of 2008. My wife and I had purchased a Scientific American Earth 3.0
before we left New York and found one of the first – if not the first – article that described
the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The article described a floating amalgamation of the
world´s trash; mostly plastic floating in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean. It also
depicted a very compelling image by famous illustrator John Blanchard that tried to
give both scale and shape to what seemed to be a rather abstract and almost absurd
Sharing a love for the ocean and being passionate about marine species, I must say
we were both as appalled as excited about this. How fascinating, we thought, that the
ocean was actually collecting our trash for us! This would mean that if the article and
the illustration were accurate: this massive amount of unaccounted floating plastic
could be recycled, better yet, it could be claimed!
Over the 2,820 miles of our flight we outlined a roadmap to what we thought would
make a great collective. Although this magazine described the issue as an irreversible
environmental disaster, the fact that the ocean was gathering all of this non-organic
matter towards the gravitational center of the world’s oceans was too good an
opportunity to ignore, if only we could re-define this as a useful material rather than
What is the philosophy that nurtures your group?
It’s been more than one hundred years since its discovery, and today plastic is the
most widespread human-made substance in the world. Critics predict that in 10 years
the fallout from the petro-chemical and plastics plague will rank with tobacco and
pesticides as a major global public health issue. Despite all this more than 250 billion
pounds of raw plastic pellets are produced from petroleum feedstock every year. We
currently recover only 5% of the plastics we produce; roughly 50% is buried in landfills,
some is remade into durable goods, and much of it remains “unaccounted for”, lost in
the environment. The amount of pollution that stems from this is simply beyond our
level of comprehension. It is simply everywhere, in places you never imagined: it’s in
our homes and our workplace, in the air we breathe and the food we eat. This is not
just a premonition, but simply part of our legacy.
Against this background we have come together as a New York based open-source do-
tank devoted to use art and design as vehicles to illustrate the long-lasting
implications that link plastic pollution back to modern lifestyles. We know that no single
group nor organization has the capacity to tackle this phenomenon by itself, which is
why we are contributing our creative skills to come up with dynamic ways to help raise
the awareness of this pressing matter. Although none of us are neither plastic
specialists nor scientists, our diverse backgrounds allow us to maintain a holistic point
of view while leading a different perspective into an overly complex scenario.
What are the goals of the group? How do you see yourselves in a near and
The cleanest city is not the one that is cleaned the most, but rather the one that
produces the less trash. As a collective our commitment is to those measures that
reduce or prevent pollution as a holistic part of waste management in society. In our
view sustainable waste management must begin with preventing waste from being
generated – what is never produced does not have to be disposed of and thus will
never become trash. Aside form this we are interested in finding effective ways of
collecting waste that has already been generated and make sure it is being taken care
of properly, either for reuse and recycling of materials and products (to as large an
extent as possible) or for disposal in a manner that is as safe as possible from an
environmental and health point of view.
We also need to stop fostering the idea that our waste needs to be casted away to
some distant [non existing] place as quickly and effectively as possible. Anything detrimental to the paradigm shift needed to move forward with any initiative focused on minimizing the over-consumption of non-biodegradable products – which is in good part the root cause of the waste management crisis – should be avoided through education for
consumers and businesses to help them reduce their generation of waste and recycle
or reuse what cannot be reduced. This way we anticipate a future where art, design
and architectural attribution, will help conceptualize strategic policy and design
solutions that will catalyze the much needed advantageous change.
Can you describe internal collaboration and collective organization, their methods?
We are constantly looking for synergies and are open for dynamic-partnerships with
industries, [e.g. fisheries, shipping, recycling plants] academia and individuals. Our
open-source-do-tank is not only devoted to find and promote design based solutions
that can help tackle this types of pollution, but create comprehensive ways to illustrate
some of the long-lasting implications that link this global phenomenon back to our
everyday lifestyles. By working together with a variety of interest groups and
stakeholders, we seek to re-define the concept of waste as an unaccounted resource
with great potential. In what other people define as waste we see resources with
inherent economic value that can be harvested; a perspective that could provide a
solution to this environmental problem. ‘Materials’ are not waste until they are destined
for the landfill or municipal incinerators. Thus we normally think of ‘materials’ and
‘materials management’ rather than ‘waste’ or ‘waste management’.
Aside from this, our studio’s work also helps build bridges among relevant sectors and
academic disciplines, thus exploring important relationships that have not been
studied before, such as the link between plastic pollution and industry, solid waste
management and consumers. If we have ever regarded our interest in the marine
environment as an escape from our daily lives, our proposal is to reverse this attitude,
by exposing all the untidy litter that passes under our names, and re-focus the public’s
attention on how the oceans’ sordid transformation is a direct result of all the day to day
choices we call ‘convenient’.