Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Participants make art of plastic bags at eco-friendly community workshop

March 29, 2019
Plastic strips are knit into a sheet at the Waste Not Community Action Workshop on March 28, 2019.
Plastic strips are knit into a sheet at the Waste Not Community Action Workshop on March 28, 2019. —
Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

Waste Not, a group of Michigan State professors who focus on the importance of using art and conversation to raise awareness of environmental issues, held an eco-friendly community workshop at the MSU Broad Art Lab where participants made art and crafts out of plastic bags.

MSU Surplus Store and MSU Recycling Center provided crafting tools and recycled material for the event, which was a collaborative effort organized by community and sustainability professor Lissy Goralnik, ceramics professor Jae Won Lee and graphic design associate professor Kelly Salchow MacArthur.

“We are trying to understand how we can use art and creativity to spark dialogue about plastic waste in our world,” Goralnik said.

Some of the activities included a knitting circle where attendees used plastic bags as yarn, a "make-and-take" where participants used vinyl to create their own boxes and an activity where participants could bring in plastic bags in exchange for a recycled banner tote bag.

Goralnik said plastic is a complicated product to recycle, so finding new ways to reuse it is important. She also mentioned that aluminum and glass are easier to recycle, since glass and aluminum can be melted back to their original forms.

“The main problem with plastic is that it never goes away,” Goralnik said. “Even if we recycle it, it gets up-cycled into lower quality materials but eventually those lower quality materials will still end up in a landfill.”

Earth Policy reports that one trillion single-use plastic bags are used across the globe yearly. MacArthur encourages people to turn to other alternatives.

“We don't need to use as much plastic as we do if we all pay more attention to when we use it and if it's necessary,” MacArthur said. "We could improve things, for instance never using single-use plastic as grocery bags, always having a reusable bag on hand. ... Carrying a water bottle and not buying bottled water — that’s a huge one.”

Events like these are held at the MSU Broad Art Lab through a selection process done by the community, said arts and humanities junior Ellie Anderson. The program is called Open Call.

“We had a bunch of different recruiting events where people would come in, explain their ideas and what they wanted to do in the space," Anderson said. "Once they (apply), it gets sent to a committee and they decide which events they want to have in the space, but they'll help them fund the project and allow them to space work with it and also the resources of the museum."

This allows the community a chance to have a voice on what is being presented at the lab, Anderson said.

Waste Not will continue that trend when they attend an art residency over the summer in Oregon, creating exhibits out of the material and artwork made at the MSU Broad Art Lab's eco-friendly plastic bag community workshop.  

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