NEO Terra: findings

On the 12th of November the final beach samples, taken from 60 beaches around Shetland, were carefully examined revealing a vast mix of  small plastic particles which were counted, recorded and projected across the exhibitions interactive space.

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51 of 60 beach samples taken from strandlines around Shetland contained plastic particles – Mangaster and Mavis Grind samples each contained over 100 plastic particles many  contained  Nurdles (plastic pellets being tracked across the world)

Many people returned to the exhibition for a final look and to share their own experiences of encountering beach litter, with stories of particular incidents of pollution from ship wrecks. In the early 1990’s two fish factory ships were wrecked close to Lerwick and residents from Gulberwick (a village a little way south) recounted  how they are still picking up debris from the wrecks particularly compressed foam (a form of plastic) from along their local  beach.  The plastic would have insulated the ships freezers. Perhaps next time the show is mounted there will be an island named WRECK, but for now the islands that made up New Lands /NEO Terra floor installation have been collapsed.

The majority of the plastiglomerates that I collected  from the beaches (25 boxes) and used to make the islands have now been placed in the Lerwick’s landfill facility.  Unfortunately this is the safest way to dispose of plastiglomerates which my have absorbed toxins from the sea. I bagged the few hundred  small plastiglomerates which had made up CORD isle to travel with me to new locations. The first of which was Southampton University   where I mixed together  plastglomerates from Shetland & Wester Ross to create  a geometric ‘Polymer Mix’ as part of my presentation for the ‘Being Human Festival’ focusing on the question ‘Is Plastic fantastic?’

southampton-polymer-mix

The delegates all agreed that plastic is a fantastic material as long as it stays within the economy – being reused and recycled. The vast leakage of plastic into the environment is damaging so many environments as witnessed here on beaches in Scotland, the UK and in oceans across the world. The leakages need to  be stopped whether it’s from factories, tourists on beaches , commercial fishing industries, agriculture or from toilets in our homes! One thing is sure we are all responsible.

NEO Terra will next be mounted in Ullapool at An Talla Solais’s  Caledonian Gallery next May – I will  begin my next collecting expedition to Wester Ross in the New Year. Please get in touch using the comment box below if you have any suggestions of where  the show might  travel too/be shown or have any comment/questions.

NEO Terra: first sighting

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The first sighting of the exhibition NEO Terra, an archipelago of  islands  was seen on Saturday at Da Gadderie, Lerwick,  by an inquisitive, thoughtful and appreciative audience. These first shots fleetingly record a walk through the exhibition, around the central floor installation a 10 metre map with plastiglomerate archipelago within the Polymer Sea.  Exiting this space the Terra Nova animation made with Shetland filmmaker JJ Jamieson illuminates the origin and making of the islands/the plastiglomerates.

Turning left visitors enter an  interactive space where plastiglomerates with their place of discovery can be examined. 60 beach samples from around the islands are arranged side by side , a selection of which  with commonly found microplastics  can be magnified and projected.  Notes can be left of observations.  Opposite is a photo documentation of education workshops carried out in schools this spring.

Five cubes constructed out of plastic items found on beaches and a simply drawn timeline notating how long different items/materials might last on beaches completes the exhibition.

The exhibition runs until the 12th of November at Shetland Museum & Archives and is open very day 10-4pm. I will be present in the gallery on many days during the exhibition naming coastal features and analysing the samples collected. I look forward to meeting visitors particularly on Friday afternoons between 2-4pm

Many thanks: to JJ Jamieson for his creative collaboration and technical dexterity in making the animation. Thanks to John Hunter Shetland Museum & Archives curator for going along with plans for re-configuring the gallery, physical help in constructing the walls and keeping us smiling while installing and to Davy Cooper from the Shetland Amenity Trust for lending us equipment and calm we can fix it support. 

Installation was only possible with the help of artist/photographer Ailsa, art students Alice and Kirsty, Jane from Sumburgh Head, and Sita Goudie and Alice from the Trust.

Thanks to Jean Urquhart for making the connection between my work on the NW coast and the work of  Sita  Goudie running the Shetland Amenity Trusts Environmental Improvement work who in turn enabled the Littoral Art Project in Shetland to happen.

Plus all my friends and supporters on the mainland and world wide thank you !

cs-logo-1-copyand travel support from North Link Ferries

Landfill – waste

At least once in our lives we should all stand in the middle of a ‘landfill site’ and take time to reflect.

landfill mound
The westerly winds were with me as I left Ullapool with my evidence bag full of materials from the Back Beach and headed east along the A839 and then North through the contrasting low landscape of Caithness to the Seater Landfill Site, where all ‘non-recyclable materials’ are destined to go in the Highlands.

A839 caithnes road landfill sign repoting to site
The sign on the road gives nothing away as to the extensive waste handling operation that is going on up the single track road. I reported to Andrea The Highland Councils Waste Management Assistant at the site office, who summarised how large ‘cells’ of areas of the site are successively excavated across the site, filled with waste and then covered over.

seater landfill KW1 4TP
As we set off for the ‘tip face’ the haulage contractor from Ross-shire which would have included the beach litter from Isle Martin pulled out of the site having just dropped his consignment of 44 tonnes of waste into this months ‘cell’.

tip face wide  Tip face web

We followed the track up to the centre of the site entered the netted area protecting the exposed waste from the winds and birds . Pausing to try and take in the waste we were about to walk over, I was pleased the day was overcast to dampen the smell and glare from shining colours of the plastic bags and objects mounded in front of us.  The volume of litter before us was chilling – bags and bags of our rubbish, bottles, food, books, household objects and now ….

evidence bag web

 

walking away from the evidence web
I took my ‘evidence bag’ to the centre of the cell placing it down, sickened to be adding yet more rubbish to this burial mound. Walking across this squelching mound of rubbish I felt the heavy weight of the litter beneath me . Is there an alternative? Can we reduce what we use, throw away and therefore have to bury? Each day at this site the council deals with 3-5 trucks of rubbish, requiring excavation, lining the cells to prevent leaching , the water run-off has to be drained and filtered before it can join the natural water courses and the mounds have to be capped off with the earth removed earlier. The site is anticipated to be in use burying our rubbish until 2040. The illustrated Guide to Britain lying on top of the mound seems to be testimony to what we are doing and therefore the reason for this site .

illustrated guide to Britain web

Andrea pointed out that significant amounts of the rubbish before us could have been recycled if it had been separated. We all need to try harder to be separating out materials so this mound is kept to a minimum. She also is working locally to increase awareness as to the need to do this. The children’s painting on the side of the site office is simple, strong and heart warming ‘Recycle’

recycling mural
I drove away chanting the  Waste Service moto ‘REDUCE, REUSE , RECYLE, REDUCE,  REUSE , RECYCLE, REDUCE, REFUSE, RECYCLE which quickly changed into REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE the battle cry against excessive plastic packaging.

Many thanks to the Highland Councils, Waste Services for allowing me to follow the outcomes of the litter I have towed off Isle Martin.