Viewing single post of blog Fool’s gold and where to find it

As part of my process with discarded materials I consider how recyclable my work is. What if I make a site specific installation that is temporary.

My work ‘Cairns’ will be made from discarded crisp packets. At this stage I don’t know if this work will be permanent / collectable / temporary. As most crisp packets are made from metallised plastic film they are difficult to recycle, you can’t just pop them in your recycling bin (if you have one).

Currently crisp packets (all brands) can be posted to Walkers or Terracyle. It’s a very small start, according to this Guardian article. ‘Claims by the crisp producer Walkers that it has recycled half a million empty crisp packets in three months should be taken with “a pinch of salt” because they represent 0.01% of plastic waste from the number made and sold annually, analysis has found’.

‘UK consumers eat 6bn packets of crisps a year’.

Those statistics were from March this year, but I doubt much has changed. There are similar statistics for the percentage of recycled coffee cups.

Ultimately we need to stop using single use plastics. Producers of this packaging should be using the profits they make to find alternatives ASAP.

But we know all that.

After some experimentation the most efficient way for me to attach the packets together, is by using a glue gun. However it’s not removable, (and it’s more plastic), making the packets un-recyclable. As a compromise I will use paper fasteners. It will take a little longer, but the packets can be dismantled, recycled or used again, and the paper fasteners reused in a future work.

I am conscious of how I source these packets. I find most of them outside a school near my studio, or I collect them from the towpath (I live on a boat). Friends and colleagues are also collecting them for me. I don’t want to encourage people to buy crisp packets. I explain how they can be recycled and only to collect if they are already something they consume. But it feels like an unresolved part of the work.

I also wash the packets and there is a carbon impact involved in that too. They are dried with tea towels.

I feel the pressure of the restrictions I am making myself, especially when working towards a deadline. But overall it feels right.

To slow down or reduce the impact of the climate emergency we need to make sacrifices. I think that is why people are so angry at Extinction Rebellion or believe that the 6th Mass Extinction is a hoax – the consequences of our actions, and the sacrifices we need to make are too frightening. It’s much easier to RAGE, or leave it to someone else.

And yeah big organisations need to take the lead, but individually it’s our responsibility too. No?

I think this is a conversation that artists and galleries (particularly the big ones) should be having. There is no point writing an environmental policy or sending in your annual figures to Julie’s Bicycle, only to end up filling your gallery with plastic that ends up in a landfill.


It’s overwhelming.