CROSSROADS

#PlasticPollution #Recycle #ConsumerWaste

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One of the most eye catching sculptures inside the Burton Street Peace Garden is “Crossroads": A cross made out of coffins stands with clear windows, displaying an arrangement of plastic waste inside. This waste ranges from plastic medicine bottles to children's toys, uncomfortable imagery to see within a coffin. “Crossroads,” poses a question to those in the garden: What is the current generation to do with the dependency on plastic that they were born into. It is clear that continuation of this wasteful use of plastic will surely begin to negatively impact the lives of generations to come, an idea eloquently described in a poem by Dewayne Barton titled, “New Religion,” which hangs upon the cross.

Content compiled by Quinn McKearney

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IMPACT ON BURTON STREET COMMUNITY

The discussion that “Crossroads,” promotes is not one that is only relevant to humans today. This heavy dependence on plastic is one that is felt across species. Specifically, plastic is finding its way into the world’s waterways like never before. In 2014 there was estimated to be 5 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the world’s surface water. This number is continuing to grow with no real end in sight.  

More information is being discovered about microplastics each day as well. Humans have been using plastic so often for so long now, that trace amounts are being found in almost all things we consume, from the tap water we drink to the meat that we eat. Microscopic levels of plastic are being found in the bodies of humans as result, a problem that is sure to become more and more relevant as time progresses.

Projects like the Burton Street Peace garden promote a way we can combat needless waste, by reusing these single use plastics into things like art for people to enjoy for a long time.

There are several cases of policy being laid to try and combat the irresponsible use of plastics. Most of this policy however, is put into action at only city or state level, not typically at the federal level. Cities like Washington D.C. and San Diego are banning single use plastics like straws, styrofoam cups, and plastic bags in hopes to discourage the wide use of these items. Movements such as these are becoming more and more popular.

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STORIES AND ADVOCACY

There are many examples of people finding beautiful ways the repurpose the single use plastics embedded in our lives, rather than throwing them away. The Burton Street Peace garden itself is a very relevant example of this. Dewayne created all of the art displays in the garden using recycled trash found in West Asheville. Each sculpture in the garden is composed of materials that would have found their way into another landfill, or worse the French Broad River. 75% of trash found in Rivers and Streams started on the side of the road. There are other artists who find creative ways to repurpose plastic waste, one of which is Mbongeni Buthelezi, a south African who came up with a method of melting down plastics to create new scenes, which he calls “Plastic Painting.” Partnering with the company Greenworks, local artist David Earl Tomlinson, created a scrap metal fish filled with trash pulled from local rivers. Ideas like Tomlinson’s not only cut down on the waste found in our communities, but also encourage a more environmentally conscious mindset.  

Read Elaina Frieberg's analysis of "Crossroads."

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CALL TO ACTION

Many programs aim to fight plastic pollution. Greenworks is a great program to volunteer with in the area, who aims to clean up waste as well as encourage younger generations to be mindful of their plastic use and how to properly dispose of it. The Plastic Pollution Coalition is a national organization which encourages refusing single use plastics. This program accepts donations and provides resources for starting anti-single use plastic movements in your own town. Another effective way to combat single-use plastics is by accepting the 4 R’s - Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, and Recycle. Cutting down on plastic pollution starts with changing your personal use!