Photograph of a man (the artist) looking down on a black, rectilinear, floating pool of plastic trash
The artist Eric Corriel looking down upon a small section of his upcoming art installation, Gyre
Photo: Brett Wood


I was listening to the radio one day and heard a report about how plastic takeout food containers in New York City typically spend 12 minutes in transit and then end up in landfill for centuries.

First I was shocked to learn that plastic never biodegrades—ever. Then to hear that it will actually last centuries—wait what!?!🤯

Like many, I had grown up believing that plastic is recycled—problem solved! Turns out it’s significantly easier (for the plastics industry) to sell the myth of recycling than to actually recycle used, dirty, non-food safe plastic.

The truth is, less than 9% of single-use plastic is recycled globally and 98% of that gets “downcycled,” meaning it gets turned into lower quality plastic (like plastic bags) that will eventually wind up in landfill.

Top-down photograph of collection of about 50 pieces of the artist's single use plastic floating in a small black pool. Most prominently featured are two plastic 'Thank You' shopping bags.
For the entirety of 2020, Eric Corriel kept every piece of single-use plastic he consumed for Gyre, an upcoming installation
Photo: Brett Wood

The chances that a typical plastic bottle will be recycled into another plastic bottle is 0.18%–so much for that solution!

According to the EPA, only about 32% of Americans recycle, which in my view, puts corporations on the hook for the other 68%!

After going down the research rabbit hole, there were two things about plastic that stood out to me as really bad and one thing that really pissed me off.

Photograph of a man (the artist), looking at the camera and dressed in tattered, 'art studio' wear, standing by a laundry sink (in a basement) holding a plastic cup as though he is about to wash it.
The artist, Eric Corriel, washing a year‘s worth of plastic for his upcoming installation, Gyre

Why plastic is really bad

Reason #1
Plastic that winds up in the environment eventually finds its way back into our bodies, which has all kinds of harmful health and reproductive effects. Watch this video or this documentary.

Reason #2
Animals think small pieces of plastic are food. Once an animal ingests plastic it’s end of story—it will stay in their stomachs until they die. Our plastic waste is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of animals. Check out this photo series by Chris Jordan.

The thing that pissed me off

The companies responsible for ordering, producing, and foisting all this plastic on us get off scott free— WTF! The plastic industry has successfully spent millions gaslighting us into thinking we’re the problem because we don’t meticulously disassemble their impossible to recycle products! Fuck. That.

Companies should a) clean up after themselves like the rest of us, and b) put in the work/make sacrifices to give us better packaging options.

Let’s talk about goals

Goal #1
Create a social media campaign that pressures companies into giving us better packaging options.

Goal #2
Promote and lead a collective mental shift in responsibility for plastic waste from consumers to producers.

Photograph of the artist's studio. On the left of the frame is a close-up of a white plastic 'Thank You' shopping bag with a smiley face on it. The middle and right of the frame show hundreds of sundry single-use plastic items strewn about the floor.
A small excerpt of the artist‘s yearly single-use plastic consumption, spread out on the floor of his studio

Final words

I started my career as an artist working in the public realm because I wanted to bring art to where people are. Over time, I came to realize that giving others tools to meaningfully and publicly express themselves is one of the most unique and powerful acts an artist can perform.

While it may not feel this way, I believe individuals hold more power than corporations—it’s just that our power is distributed and uncoordinated. Artists, I believe, have the unique ability to harness visual language to coordinate and focus this power.

450YRS stickers represent my best effort to focus and coordinate this power to help us move away from plastics. I invite you to add your power to this side of the equation.

Eric Corriel, artist

Eric Corriel signature

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