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Home for wayward plastic bottles

by on October 10, 2012

Richard James in front of his meta-bottles at Point Reyes.
Richard James in front of his meta-bottles at Point Reyes.

When many of us are out there hiking the great outdoors, we become impromptu trash collectors.

After all, when you appreciate nature you can’t help but snatch up that six-pack ring or plastic bag that you just know is going to wreak havoc on some unsuspecting critter.

But then there’s always someone who takes such a chore to a whole new level. Meet Richard James, a photographer who spends a lot of time at the Point Reyes National Seashore. One day after the prompting of numerous people, he decided to up his trash-collecting ante and see what would happen if he gathered and kept plastic bottles from the beach for a whole year.

The result was the construction of what he calls “meta-bottles” — or bottles made from bottles. He made five of them, each 8.5 feet tall, 30 inches across, and with 172-feet volume filled with mostly uncompressed plastic bottles. The bottles are a United Nations of waste — with labels from  Japan, China, Korea, Russia, Malaysia, Greece and, of course, the U.S. Now you know that the junk thrown into the ocean really does end up everywhere.

James writes on his blog:

“What I have learned from my many hours on the beach is that it does not so much matter how many people pick up the trash that is coming in, 24/7/365 from the sea.  Myself and 1,000 others could work each and every day and not keep up with the new trash arriving each day.”

So the bottles are meant to be a reminder that you should stop generating trash and use reusable water containers.

Like many artists with large projects, James has a little bit of a real estate issue he wants you to help solve. What’s he going to do with the mega meta-bottles?

“They need to be seen, to galvanize society. Now they mostly sit in a barn entertaining mice and swallows and the occasional fox or raccoon,” he wrote in an email. “I’d like to find a more meaningful home for them soon.”

So this whole story here is meant to ask: Do you have a place to showcase his meta-bottles? Leave a comment, or email alison@baynature.org,  and we’ll put you in touch with James.

Alison Hawkes is the online editor of Bay Nature.  

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Sarah Reid on October 12th, 2012 at 8:35 am

Tolay Lake Fall Festival, Tolay Lake Regional Park, Petaluma, is October 12-14 and 18-21. Last minute, but this would be a great place to showcase these for two weekends, for a lot of families with children who need this impression. Contact Sonoma County Regional Parks (Caryl Hart, Director) to see about getting these a spot! From a dedicated parks volunteer, Mounted Assistance Unit member who dismounts regularly to pick up trash (the horse does a great stand-stay). I will be at the festival too. Thanks for this James and Bay Nature!

Jessica on October 12th, 2012 at 9:39 am

I live right by San Francisco’s city dump, and every once in a while there are art shows, well-attended and very fun. Perhaps this is a venue to showcase the bottles?

As well, if you drafted a letter describing learning goals for observers, I think some public schools would be willing to display these bottles for a limited time. It would only take a little searching to find the names of some science teachers at local schools; if they are interested they could be great advocates with principals to bring your bottles in.

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