"Plastic Paradise - The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Documentary"

-Plastic Paradise, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

In order for our Earth to provide for us, we must care for it. The Earth has been here for millions and millions of years and today we are seeing the major consequences of human behavior on the planets systems. We have polluted our planet in every direction possible. From air pollution to acid rain, to radioactive pollution in our soils to oil spills in our waters. One of the major contributors to the Earths damage is pollution of toxic materials and waste in our waters. Not only selective areas of the ocean, but 100% of our oceans that have been contaminated with substances that do not belong there. Contamination that is being cause by the one material we make contact with on a daily basis. Plastic.

    The problem is not being unaware of the human races behavior towards our planet, because many of us are aware and we are continuing to spread awareness about the matter at hand. But we are not understanding the weight of the situation. Many of our resources come from or pass through the Earths water, from the fish we eat to the sea salt in our salt shakers used in most of our meals. The plastic we use, we eventually throw “away”. “Away” is a place we are all familiar of, and it is our oceans. The plastic dumped into the ocean eventually finds its way into our guts by ingesting the plastic that we have thrown away. These plastic materialsbreak down into smaller particles and are eaten by fish and passed up the food chain, to our dinner tables. Or, the plastic could wash up on the shore and be eaten by on land creatures and birds. 

If we were tested for BPA in our bodies (BPA stands for bisphenol A. BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s.)  we would see that our body releases BPA as a toxin from our body through sweat, because this plastic chemical is inside our bodies, and the bodies of habitats and species other than us. 

What is most alarming, is that by the year 2050, scientists predict that there will be a piece of plastic for every fish in the ocean (estimate). Although we are NOT AWARE of how many fish there are in the ocean, I believe that regardless of the amount of plastic in the ocean, that plastic should not exist in the Earths waters to begin with. The fossil fuels that we have extracted from underground, through the process of deforestation, in order to obtain a substance to create plastic is an unethical process in itself. Once the oil has gone through a man made system and is turned into plastic, we place this plastic (refined form of oil) into the ocean. This substance, before it was refined, was meant to be underground. We have taken this fossil fuel, played around with it, and thrown it into the waters. I wonder why this matter is not given the attention it deserves. Thus, for my project I have decided to target this problem. 

There are other people who have targeted this issue in order to spread awareness about its dangers. Such as Sandra Meola (Plastic Reduction Campaign), Andy Keller (The Bag Monster) and Angela Sun ("Plastic Paradise - The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Documentary").

I went out on a ferry ride along the hudson river. This ferry ride was accompanied by a guest speaker, Sandra Meola. She is a Communications and Outreach Associate, New York/New Jersey Baykeeper. She manages the legislative messaging, communications, social media, and is currently leading the Plastic Reduction Campaign.  She spoke to the riders about the tactics they are using to clean up the Hudson River, one of the most polluted rivers in the world. They use a tool similar to that of a fish net that they would glide along the surface of the river and several feet below it. They would then take out the net and collect all the plastic. Not only does this take a lot of time to do, it also does not get to most of the plastic particles that have already deteriorated into the vast oceans around the world. She collects these plastic pieces and saves them in jars as artifacts. This made me reflect on the amount of time and effort it will take to clear up the oceans, and if clearing up the whole ocean from its plastic before the year of 2050 is even possible. 

 Online there are many people protesting against the use of single use plastic, however I found the Bag Monster to be most interesting. The Bag Monster is trying to bring to our attention how much plastic we are actually using and throwing away in a more visual take. He puts together a whole suit with plastic bags attached all over in a very dense manner. He would walk around wearing this suit, on the beach or around the city and occasionally stands in front of plastic companies trying to protest against them. The end goal is to visually show the impact single use plastic bags have on the environment. As when we are finished with them, they end up in other environments such as the ocean. 


In the documentary “Plastic Paradise, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” a Angela Sun goes on a quest to find out where all our plastic waste goes, how it affects that environment and species living there. ““EVERY single piece of plastic that has ever been created since the 19th century is still SOMEWHERE on our planet. So if it never goes away, where does it go?” She investigates where the plastic goes and shows us how there are five major gyres of which all the plastic pieces are flowing into in the ocean. More over, how the plastic that gets washed up onto shore get ingested by birds and other wild life and die in great amounts.

She brings to our attention how plastic is making its way up the food chain and is in our table salt and the fish we eat.  She also carries out an experiment in a lab to prove how our bodies contain and sweat out plastic substances, in particular BPA. Proving that the human race has a percentage of plastic in their systems that ultimately should not be present. Whether it be the human body or the body of any other living thing. She takes the time to attend a conference where most people in the plastic industry were present. She takes the liberty of questioning them and bringing to their attention all the matters the Earth is facing regarding plastic and the ocean. The people in the industry avoided confronting these matters and she was asked to leave the building.


    After collecting this research, analyzing it and stumbling across several articles on the way, it seems as though plastic pollution in the ocean is still not getting the attention it needs. Yes, we are taking steps in the right direction, but I feel as though people are still not aware of the weight of the situation, or they are but they choose to ignore it. It will not shock people until they can visually witness or emotionally feel hurt by the situation. For example, a friend or family member dying from plastic contamination from their food. Or swimming and getting caught in aa giant net of plastic that keeps rolling along the coral reef and grows as it moves along. 

    This is a perfect opportunity for my project to step in a fill in this gap or disconnect between our waters and the people. We have destroyed the waters for so many species already, but unfortunately the human race will not make a difference unless it targets them. If I can show the show people how we will have to deal with the waters if it continues being polluted at this rate, maybe they will react and start to make a difference. Creating an object designed for a future situation or disaster may be one of the only ways to actually shock someone. We have become numb to many shock advertisements such as the polar bear sitting on a single block of ice, and a bird being cut open with plastic filled in its belly. It is time to take this to the next level and show everyone what the human race will be facing several years down the line when plastic starts to really effect us. 

From knowledge I have acquired in my Sustainable Systems class, I became aware of the "filtering" capabilities that mussels have in the water. These crustaceans play a huge role in the cleaning system of the ocean, other than other bacteria that feed off of carbon dioxide particles in the ocean. 
Below is a video of 12 mussels in action over a period of 1 hour. 

From here on out, I have decided to include mussels in the final design of my wearable suit.

The original plan was to create a suit with real mussel shells placed all over. Once this suit was touched, a projection of plastic bottles which were once on it would disappear. However, I could not find a proper way to collect all the mussel shells I would have like to through restaurants. For this reason, I created a prototype which could result in a more art installation feel and more unrealistic. This was one limitation however it did not interrupt the concept which allowed me to carry on without hesitation. The sketch below shows the plan for my projects idea.

This suit, if were to be used in the future, would have fast LEDs that would be used as indicators of how much plastic content there is in the water when wearing the suit. Although I could not find a sensor that could sense for plastic, I opted for using a simple moisture sensor that would imitate what I would have liked to happen if there were to be a plastic sensor in place. The greater the plastic content (moisture content), the more LED's would light up on the strip. 

mussel copy 3.jpg

These are the two projections I have used to project onto my suit. Since I was not able to collect real mussel shells, I had made paper cut outs. The white paper aided in the clarity of the image being projected. However since the laser cutters were all booked that week, I had been left with the option to cut out all of the mussel shells by hand. 

The suit was meant to cover the whole body, however I had only cut out enough mussels to cover the torso and arm area of the body. The images projected fairly well onto the suit, however I wish that I would have been able to map the objects onto the body suit through detection libraries on OpenFrameworks. 

The circuit with the Arduino as well as the moisture sensor sat at the back of the suit in a fanny pack I had made using CVS plastic bags and tape. 


Plastic Vinyl Sheet



2 Waterproof LED Strips

200 Round Head Fasteners

2 Sheets of Cardboard Paper

Arduino Uno

Moisture Sensor

Round Head Fasteners

 The code code can be found by clicking on this button leading to a github page. 

It contains the code for the capacitative sensor input reading, as well as the moisture sensor input reading and fast LED output animation. In order for the projection to alter between plastic and mussels, the capacitative sensor would read values in a loop and from there would serial print onto openFrameworks. Code on OpenFrameworks would then dictate which image would load and be projected. Although fairly simple, my limited knowledge in open frameworks and serial print was a huge limitation and I was not able to carry out this task successfully.






If successful:

 OpenFrameWorks - Where images are stored and loaded

Arduino to OpenFrameworks SerialPrint


 Fritzing diagrams below represent the setup on my breadboard and Arduino attaching the fast LED strip, moisture sensor, and capacitative sensor. 

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 3.55.58 PM.png



 The video was not too difficult to make, and my aim was to give my project a back story through the video as well as a short demonstration of how it would work if my code was running smoothly between Arduino and openframeworks.



For the future, it would be of great help to know the programs I am using more familiarly, as I felt that I was spending a lot of extra time on a task that seemed very simple to others. When asking around about the serial print, everyone had seemed to write code differently yet execute the same task to connect Arduino and open frameworks. When it came to writing it myself, I did not feel like I was confident enough about my knowledge in OF to alter and modify the code to work with what I wanted to execute. 

Moreover, I would like to create products that have a sleeker finish. My project would be acceptable as a prototype yet not a final model. If I had the skills or time to make a more advanced model then the final product may look more refined, complete and finished. This is very important to me as a designer as the audience will not take my work seriously unless it is executed in a professional manner. 

All in all I am fairly satisfied with the outcome of this project. The concept and path of this project gave me insight on my personal passions and interests that I would like to carry on representing throughout my future works.