Over the past several years, artist Benjamin Von Wong has been on an amazing journey inspiring people to reconsider what they throw away.

It started with a trip to Guatemala and an up-close photoshoot of a massive trash heap there, and quickly morphed into a series of projects designed to confront people with various aspects of the world's waste problem.

As an artist, however, he wanted to do it in a way that would get people to look first before he unloaded harrowing facts about waste on them. There's so much alarmist news out there about what we're doing to our planet that, frankly, after a while, many of us end up turning off to the problem. Von Wong's method of turning trash into something beautiful to get our attention is a different, perhaps more productive approach.


"As human beings, we go through so much sh*t," noted the artist in a blog post on Bored Panda. "Every day, we make dozens of small decisions to buy more stuff – at the supermarket, malls, online… For most of my life, I didn’t think it mattered. After all, I was just one person, making a couple of small decisions."

"But one day, I found myself in a landfill surrounded by an endless mountain of other people’s small decisions and realized that maybe those small decisions did matter."

So, with a veritable army of like-minded volunteers, he created a series of waste-based art installations to help wake others up and see the problem that's all around them.

He put a mermaid in a plastic sea of 10,000 bottles — the same amount the average person uses and throws away in a lifetime.

He created "Toxic Laundry Monsters" to bring the chemicals and micro-plastics that are released every time we do a wash to life.

His latest piece, "Strawpocalypse" is meant to showcase the enormity of the plastic straw problem. It took him and his crew 6 months to collect 168,000 straws recovered off the streets of Vietnam to complete the waves.

In partnership with Laura François and her nonprofit, clothingtheloop.org, Von Wong took thousands of garments that were left in an abandoned factory in Cambodia and made several installations to accent how wasteful the fashion industry has become. You can check out how they made them here.

Photo via VonWong/YouTube.

Photo via VonWong/YouTube.

And this plastic cave was made from 18,000 cups that were collected from a food court in just one and a half days. It really puts that "by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean" statistic into perspective.

The point of all of this, Von Wong hopes, is that more people will start to change their consumption and waste habits. If nothing else, his art shows that one person can make a difference. A big difference.

We're up against a mounting problem, and that can feel overwhelming, but if you pick one thing today — whether it's plastic straws, bags, bottles or how you buy clothes — and make a decision to be more mindful about it, you'll be taking a significant step in the right direction.

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