Wasted Exhibition

Updated: Jun 28, 2019


Light made of recycled plastic lids

The project started around 2015 when I was of course, inspired by images on the Internet. Showing a multitude of  ingenious creations from people around the world - using recycled objects, in particular - plastic caps.

Long inspired by sea creatures such as sea anemones and the original shell collectors, commonly known as 'Carrier' shells (Xenophora pallidula), which attach detritus  from the ocean floor to their shells,  I chose to construct light balls made of recycled plastic lids. The plastic when lit, emits a soft glowing light reminiscent of creatures from an underwater world.

Light made of recycled plastic lids

During this project, I was not unaware of the similarity to the 'Carrier' shells as I was dutifully attaching the detritus of human consumption - plastic caps, to the outer skin of the acrylic lanterns forming a protective layer. 


Bubblegum - light made of recycled plastic lids

Rainbow - light made of recycled plastic lids

At first I was collecting plastic caps entirely from our household but soon found my eyes eagerly searching the pavement and garbage bins for more caps.  Quickly realising I'd developed quite an addiction to the procuring of rare colours or plastic caps with unusual shapes, I decided I would need additional sources of lids to complete the project.

Soon I was fortunate to discover many recycling friends, who each provided me with a ready stream of fresh lids, dutifully collected, cleaned and delivered to me at regular intervals and each promising to be colourful and unusual adornments for the lights. Additionally, the local council recycling depot were happy for me to skim the tops of the recycling bins for an array of lids not normally available to me with my entrenched purchasing habits.  

Plastic lids were sorted according to colour

The amazing variety of colours, shapes and forms of caps available for packaging soon became apparent in the waste from others. The caps, discarded remnants of products I'd never seen in our household, became an unusual insight into other peoples' lives. I began to match the caps to products, questioning why a particular shaped or coloured lid was chosen for the product packaging.

Plastic lids used for a variety of products

The caps seemed to either directly communicate the contents held inside, for example white caps used for medical or milk, or were coded more mysteriously with examples such as yellow caps for milk, or purple caps for chocolate. My previous studies in colour theory provoked further interest, looking at it from a marketing and cultural perspective.

By far the biggest contributor was the local DS Cafe, providing a good monoculture of blue and yellow milk caps along with a few highly prized and unusual food storage container caps. 

In total I collected a total weight of 18kg of plastic caps amounting to around 5580 individual caps. Whilst the project has long since finished, I still experience a compulsion to recycle my plastic caps, and I am still entrusted with the occasional bag of recycled caps from my recycling friends. I can only surmise they are as addicted to collecting the caps as am I.

#recycling #plastic #environmentalart

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Heather Elson

M: PO BOX 105 Franklin TAS 7113

W: www.heatherelson.com.au

E: heatherelsonphotography@gmail.com

© 2023 by Heather Elson