Maarten Vanden Eynde

Plastic Reef

2008 - 2013
Melted plastic debris from the worlds oceans, 500 x 450 cm.

In March 2008 I found out that there was a “floating landfill”, about the size of continental US and made up of plastic particles, swirling about 1,000 miles west of California and 1,000 miles north of the Hawaiian Islands. Almost nobody knew about it at that time so I wanted to raise awareness for this incredible phenomenon and find out what could be done with this new ‘raw’ material. In January 2009 I visited Charles Moore, marine researcher at the Algalita Marina Research Foundation in Long Beach who discovered the Plastic Garbage Patch in 1997. He gave me a first sample of plastic debris from the North Pacific Gyre which I melted into a small plastic coral reef, the size of a football. The trash became beautiful again and seemed to solve two problems at the same time: the plastic in the ocean and the disappearing of coral reefs world wide. 

I decided to make Plastic Reef as big as possible and went to the Hawaiian Islands which are located in the center of the North Pacific Gyre and are getting an incredible amount of plastic flotsam on their beaches. Every time Plastic Reef was exhibited it grew. In January 2010 I joined Pangaea Explorations on their research boat Sea Dragon, which is doing research on the plastic pollution worldwide. We crossed the Atlantic Ocean, from Bermuda to the Azores and gathered as much plastic as possible to melt it into the growing Plastic Reef. In 2011 and 2012 I visited the other gyres in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Ocean in order to have samples from all major gyres worldwide. 

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