The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

April 16, 2010

Take The Challenge. Show Your Plastic. Make Art.

Show Your Plastic Trash Challenge

The gals from See Jane Do did it. Erin from The Conscious Shopper did it. And you can too!

Collecting Plastic. Making Art.

As you know, since I started this project in June of 2007, I’ve been collecting my own plastic waste and posting it weekly, and now monthly, on this blog. Why do that? Because in the beginning, I had no idea how much plastic waste I was actually making. In order to see what areas needed improvement, I had to collect it and see what I was generating in the first place.

Beth Terry's Week 2 plastic collectionBeth Terry’s plastic trash collection, Week 2
Collecting my plastic and displaying it publicly helps me to be more mindful of what comes into my life and how I treat the materials of this world. It helps me think twice before grabbing that drink in a plastic-lined paper cup or accepting one more plastic straw automatically inserted into my drink. It encourages me to contact companies before ordering their merchandise to see if they will ship my purchase without any plastic packaging. And it actually humbles me and helps me to be less judgmental of the perceived shortcomings of others. No one is perfect, right?

Last year, I challenged Fake Plastic Fish readers to take the challenge with me and collect their plastic waste for just one week to look at and analyze their own plastic consumption. The challenge is not about making judgments or comparisons with other people. And it’s certainly not about guilt. It’s just a way to take an objective look at the plastic that makes its way into our lives, to find plastic-free alternatives, and to realize the limits to what we can do as individuals. Our modern culture does not make it easy for us.

It’s been about a year since I threw down the gauntlet. Those who have taken the challenge have learned a lot about what plastic is in their lives and ways they can personally reduce. Some found they were generating more plastic waste than expected. And some actually discovered they were using less than they thought. Everyone woke up to the fact that plastic is all around us and infuses our daily lives in ways we often don’t realize.

Be Part of a Fabulous Art Installation!

We need your plastic!

For those who haven’t taken the challenge yet, I’ve got an exciting project to announce. Friends of mine are doing a big art piece at the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco on June 3 this year in celebration of Jacques Cousteau’s 100th Birthday. There will be 4,000+ people attending, as well as the Cousteau grandchildren. The art pieces are ALL about Plastic Pollution – and should be very thought provoking and edgy.

We can be a part of this artwork. The team needs plastic to put in different elements of the piece – all of it single use disposable plastic. This is a great way to engage with this critical issue of how plastic is literally killing the sea, and help put it in some art that thousands of people will see – hopefully making them aware of the crisis.

The Challenge is Easier Than Ever

Whether you decide to contribute your plastic to the art piece or not, I would like you to collect, tally, and upload your results to the Show Your (Plastic) Trash Challenge web site. In fact, I’ve made it much easier to do by creating a form for you to fill in and a simple way to upload your photograph.

Check it out. See what others have done and get inspired!

Here are the Rules. The challenge form is at the bottom of the Rules page. You can be the first to help me test out the form and make sure it is bug-free.

So will you do it?

Please leave a comment at the bottom of this post if you’d like to participate in the challenge or have questions about it.  Make it fun.  Do it with your friends or your kids or do it alone.  It’s your project.  You decide how you want to do it and how many of the questions on the form you want to answer.  If you don’t have a scale to weigh your plastic, don’t worry.  The picture is the most important part.  That, and your feelings afterwards.   Please help others learn that using plastic doesn’t make us bad people, but looking at how it affects our daily lives and thinking about ways we can help change the world can only make us better.

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13 years ago

This post reminded me of a current contest the Make people are doing:

Save My Oceans Plastic Upcycling Contest

13 years ago

I would love some good resources about the Pacific Garbage Patch to share with my class. Thanks for your help with this. The kids are very enthusiastic about collecting their plastic. I’m already thinking about all the ways we can integrate math and graphing once the week is over.

13 years ago

Beth- I started the challenge today with my first graders. All went well at snack time but our lunch collection went wrong when some overly helpful individual saw a bucket full of plastic sitting on a bench and kindly tossed it out for us. The kids and I agreed this was a great trial run. For anyone thinking of doing this with your class you might want to give yourself a trial day.

Also, I wanted to give the kids more specifics about the art installation at the Academy. I know they would love to be a part of that since we have visited this year. Any more info you can give about that would be great. Our school is an art based school so there may be more teachers interested in getting involved. I love the idea of integrating the arts and science!

barbara de vries
13 years ago

Hi, I’m in. I have been working with beach plastic, garbage that has been in the oceans and washes up on beaches all over, for the past four years. i sell at specialty stores, to cool sophisticated customers who pay good money for these pieces.

I recently added clothes to the collection. i employ American sewers and beaders who work from home, generatingextra income…
Next week I’m teaching a class on how to be creative with waste to fourth graders…


13 years ago

Beth have you heard of that new building in Taiwan that is constructed of recycled bottles? I’d love to hear your take on that!!

13 years ago

I’m in! Is it this week?
I’m so glad to have found your blog. For the past month or so, I’ve been paying closer attention to plastic – it’s scary! I regret not really thinking about this sooner.

13 years ago

I am SO doing this with my homeschool kids, and will encourage other homeschool moms to do it too.

I thought it was a fascinating coincidence that this past week at our church in Santa Cruz the new lesson series was called “Beauty from Ashes” and was partly inspired by art–and a teach of artists at the church created an amazing hanging sculpture based upon plastic water bottles! I do not have pics, but if you want to see some photos of the art that both inspired the series and that is on display in the sanctuary, please visit and scroll down to the art.

13 years ago

I can’t yet. This doesn’t mean that I’m not SUPER conscious of plastic in my life. It just means that I’m unwilling to introduce more guilt right now. My blue plastic bucket recently BROKE. I didn’t even know that buckets COULD break, but it had a huge piece of the top chip off and I felt I could live with a chipped bucket and then I touched it the wrong way and the whole side fell in. [sigh]

So, I’m shopping for a new bucket. What did people use before plastic? There are just some areas of my life for which non-plastic substitutes don’t work. For instance, I’m starting seeds in little plastic bags. What other substance would hold the moisture? What other substance would you put on your head in a shower if you didn’t need to wash your hair? I take lots of supplements and look at my desk to see a menagerie of plastic bottles.

I’m working on it, but not just yet.

Kate K.
13 years ago

Not certain I will officially participate but I need to tell you that I find your website inspiring and have also greatly reduced my household trash in the past couple of years. Some of the steps we have taken (some suggested by your blog and some others) include homemade tortillas, bulk (local!) buying, cloth napkins, towels and cleaning rags, cloth diapers and wipies (I have a 2 year old), diva cup, and most recently we have gone off shampoo and dishwasher detergent. We have been gradually making small changes and reading here helps me realize we have come a long way and makes me excited to keep learning and find out what we will simplify next.
I will say that having a child forces you to think creatively in our culture in order not to create terrible amounts of waste (I cringe every time we see certain relatives who without fail give my daughter a plastic toy that requires batteries and has no volume control and no off switch–I don’t cringe because of the relatives; they are lovely…it’s only the toy). But with some intentionality it’s possible to have a child that wastes almost as little as you do. Anyhow, thanks from a previously-silent lurker. :-)

Kate E.
13 years ago

I will participate….and hopefully will get our Elementary school involved. Thanks so much for the info.!

Tina Clark
13 years ago

I will participate. Started yesterday. I hope this helps me take the next step in getting plastic out.

13 years ago

I’m a teacher in SF and think this would be a great Earth Day project for my class to do. There is a lot of plastic used to package school lunches, not to mention the dreaded lunchables and chip bags.

13 years ago

I’m in and more than a little scared at what our pile might look like.