As the world leaders come together this week to address the crucial issues of how come to agreements to slow down and stop Global Warming caused by our ever increasing CO2 emissions and destruction of the forests, artists all over the world are making work and running events to draw attention to the issue.

My contribution is to visually summarise in a simple way the volumes of waste I have witnessed on the beaches around Scotland over the last 2 years and the wasted energy that represents. With the help of scientist John McIntyre who has generously shared with me his recent research into Plastic Data, I am quantifying the embodied energy that each cube represents as it sits on the beaches and is buried in landfill.

I have selected 5 common plastic beach litter items to stack and combine into measurable cubes so I  can quantify the energy content of the discarded waste on beaches over the duration of the Climate Change Conference, both the images and calculations will be shared here on the blog and on Twitter @LittoralArt .

#COPcube [1. Polypropylene]

COPcube1Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 10 cm

Material : sections of prawn boxes corrugated plastic/twin wall plastic sheets

Produced from High-Impact Polypropylene PP

Weight: 1280g

Embodied energy content: 3.72 litres petrol or 122.1 MJ/Kg

Location: Loch Broom, Ross-shire beaches

#COPcube [2. Polyethylene]

COPcube2Dimensions: 15 x 15 x 15 cm

Material : strapping used to hold together fish/prawn/packaging boxes

Produced from Polyethylene terephthalate PET  orPETE

Weight: 220g

Embodied energy content: 0.36 litres petrol or 11.81 MJ/Kg

Location: collected Dun Canna beach, Ross-shire




#COPcube [3. High-density polyethelene ]

COPcube3 top BW txt copyDimensions: 20 x 20 x 20 cm

Material : mussel pegs – used in aquaculture, cast plastic

Produced from High-density polyethelene HDPE

Weight: 4196g

Embodied energy content: 10.15 litres petrol or 334.29 MJ/Kg

Location: collected Shetland beaches






#COPcube [4. Polypropylene]

COPcube 4 flattened

Dimensions: 7 x 7 x 7 cm

Material : plastic tubes – sticks/shafts of ‘cotton bud’ products – domestic /cosmetic use

Produced from Polypropylene PP

Weight: 138g

Embodied energy content: 0.4 litres petrol or 13.17 MJ/Kg

Location: collected Portobello & Crammond beaches, Firth of Forth




#COPcube [5. Polyethylene]

COPcube5 persp flattened copyDimensions: 5 x 5 x 5 cm

Material : mixed micro fibres from ropes, strapping, plastic bags etc Commercial & domestic sources

Produced from Polyethylene terephthalate PET  orPETE

Weight: 14g

Embodied energy content: 0.022 litres petrol or 0.753 MJ/Kg

Location: collected Badentarbet beach, Ross-shire




The embodied energy calculations include the energy used in the feed stock (raw material) used to manufacture the plastic, it also includes the energy used to manufacture and transport the finished plastic product.

The energy content data used is from the ICE database. Craig Jones at Bristol University created it.

A series of arts events are taking place all over the world, as part of the ArtCOP 2015. You can find out more at . The Scottish partner for this is Creative Carbon Scotland. Please follow and pass on the links and feel free to leave a comment

John McIntyre is trying to work out using the available data on resource abundance, population, agriculture and realistic engineering if it is possible for us to construct a sustainable civilization from the trap humanity has accidentally constructed following the century long unplanned transition from a feudal near medieval society to an age of great danger and wonder.

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