According to the World Economic Forum 2016 report, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish (by weight) in the world's oceans.
In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight).
The state of the oceans is a hot topic right now, and a common thread that is tying together many of our summer events and initiatives at the Gottesman Libraries, from educational experiences to book exhibits. Earlier this month Starbucks was the latest company, followed by Marriott International, to enact a plastic straw ban. But whether or not this move is actually impactful is up for debate.
The controversy about banning single use plastic has raised controversy in this current incarnation of action and press. On the one hand, banning these plastic pieces has a positive environmental impact, but can take away accessibility for those relying on certain plastics for daily life functions. And some small business rely on certain plastic straws for the consumption of their product (#bubbletea).
Enter, Oceans of Plastic, our July/August Cafe Collection, curated by Jennifer Govan and designed here on the design team. Many of the books in the Oceans of Plastics book collection offer advice, know-how, stories, guides and thoughts on the way to approach this impending plastic peril. For this installation, I wanted to have visitors take a peek below the water’s surface and directly interact with the book display, to see just what is happening in this fish-plastic tango. From a fishing boat reeling in a plastic bag, to the rotating life cycle of a fish in this polyethylene environment, Oceans of Plastic explores the underwater world we face in today’s oceans.
The fate of the 2050 fish-to-plastic ratio is technically in our hands. Hopefully through these movements around the world and with these exhibitions and learning experiences here at TC, we are spreading awareness and opening up the conversation for conservation of plastic one visitor at a time.
Designing the Exhibit
I sketched out my initial ideas and with the design challenge of having to bring this to life with the scope of the materials at hand. I discovered a whimsical opaque blue plastic sheet just big enough to not be big enough. So I worked around that material size as I designed the installation.
The next step was to design and prototype the fish spinning mechanism. I designed the spindle using a wooden rod about 1/2" in diameter and laser cut washers to fit around the rod between the different layers of content. The spinning fish plate was also designed in Illustrator and cut on the laser cutter to fit the spindle. This was layered into the mechanism. The spindle was then embedded into the backboard of the installation in the following structure format: washer screwed into back of spindle --> backboard --> washer --> fish plate layer-->washer--> blue plastic sheet --> sticker label --> 1-2" of space --> handle
The second piece of the puzzle was creating a motor mechanism for the fishing rod. Initially I used a simple, small (plastic-based) servo motor, programmed with an Arduino. Within 24 hours the parts had melted and the motor had burned out. I needed to find a motor robust enough to run seamlessly for weeks without melting or causing an electrical hazard. The solution was implementing a stepped motor. The code changed a bit, but the effect as the servo.
The pieces came together in this final installation.