2012-11-26

Co.Exist

These Awesome Chairs Are Made Entirely From Ocean-Polluting Plastic

Each Sea Chair is unique, with different looks depending on what kind of plastic was harvested each day.

Micro-plastic particles—or "mermaid’s tears"—are a major component of marine pollution. Millions of these nurdles (that’s the technical term for the pellets used in plastics production) enter waterways ever year, where they combine with products ground down by waves and sunlight. The result is a sort of insidious "soup" that’s hard to see with the naked eye, but is persistent and hard to remedy.

The Sea Chair Project is an art project that draws attention to the problem, but also is a possible idea for doing something about it. Three young artists from Britain have created a machine that mines the fine-ground residue, and turns it into three-legged chairs. Each has its stamp of authenticity and is unique to its surroundings. Some are dark black (from oil waste); others white, red, or flecked with green and blue. All are elegant, in a macabre way.

Kieren Jones, one of the artists, says the project started with a trip to one of Britain’s most polluted beaches. "It was a nice day, but we were a bit disappointed at first, because there was no clear indication of waste," he says. "It was only when we got a bucket of water that we noticed some of the sand floated. The plastic broke down so much, it was just the size of sand, and we were amazed by how much there was."

The artists repurposed an old sluicing machine that locals used to use for tin-panning. It separates out the plastic and wood, which the team then dries and presses into new shapes. Jones says the whole contraption can be put on a trawler-boat, so that mining, separating, and chair-making can be done while in the water.

The artists have teamed up with an octogenerian fisherman, who says fishing is no longer worth his time. "He says he bought his boat years and years ago, and did an apprenticeship with his father and grandfather, and now it’s worthless because nobody is entering the industry. So, we’ve turned his boat into a mobile plastics factory."

Europe has several projects encouraging fishermen to trawl for waste. Jones says the idea is not as crazy as it sounds, given rising prices for recyclables, and restrictions on fishing.

"It’s about proving the garbage patch is an opportunity," he says. "We think there is an amazing opportunity for fishermen to trawl for plastics."

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3 Comments

  • Bruce Weaver

    Great Idea, just hope that these new breed of plastic fisherman have a good working Radiation detector on board! Seriously! Fukoshima's continued wrath is not certain and would be good for those fishing for plastic to have some sort of detector to notify others of the danger this new career might involve.

  • Tammy

    I meant to ask, how much Sea Chair Project is charging for their chairs? and what do you think the "real" price is?

  • Tammy

    I am so sad by the all the plastic gyres out there! It is refreshing to see a new opportunity for the fisherman in your story. Thanks for sharing and I will share as well. I am a student in a Recycling and Resource Management course at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, CA. My class  will enjoy a more uplifting story about the Great Garbage Patch providing a commodity that human ignorance has caused in the Great Garbage Patch..