'If we go on producing waste, will Mother Earth yield plastics instead of fertile soil in the end?’
This is the question that haunts Maria Koijck, designer at Bas-is and autonomous artist. Since her trip to Sierra Leone with development organization Save the Children, where she walked through the slum area, she has not been able to shake off these images. Now she is dedicating herself to increasing people’s awareness about street litter and its consequences for the earth and its inhabitants.
‘I’ve have never seen so much plastic waste as I saw in Freetown. Humans, pigs and dogs alike were all on the beach, that was covered by a layer of refuse several metres thick, scavenging for valuable scraps. When I got back to The Netherlands I started making a statue out of plastic bottles. In two months’ time I picked up 1500 bottles on my daily bicycle trips to work, and I realized that plastic soup is not just an African issue, but that it starts at your own front door.’
Apart from organizing large-scale projects to change the fixed ideas about street litter, Maria is trying to increase awareness on a smaller scale as well. She teaches at schools as a visiting lecturer to inform the youngsters.
‘I assume that if you give children the theoretical facts, they will apply them in a practical way and pass them on to the younger students. In this way the experience will stick with them in the future.’
Freshwater Animals and Land Fish
Maria has made a number of public appearances with her art. In 2010 she created Petty, a swan of 5,5 by 3 metres, filled with thousands of plastic (PET) bottles. The project was done in cooperation with the local residents, who gathered plastic bottles and at the same time cleared up the street litter. And as it behooves a swan, Petty swam. She floated on lake Hoornsemeer in Groningen during the summer months.
And a Christmas tree eleven metres high, made of abandoned bicycles.
Maria’s motto is: ‘The bigger, the better.’ In cooperation with the municipality of Groningen she made another statement: Wil De Orka. This creation was placed on Vismarkt. Together with a flashmob of volunteers she gathered as much street litter as possible in the city centre. In one day they picked up more than 550 kilos—or 800 trash bags—and filled the Orka’s frame with it. At the end of the day all the refuse was handed over to the waste-disposal service.
A cleaner future
Maria’s efforts are gradually changing the image we have of street litter. Are you willing to fight the degradation of the streets and the contamination of the earth? Stop street litter in your environment by picking it up every now and then. For a cleaner future, bit by bit, bottle by bottle, can by can.