Non-Biodegradable Art

That’s right, I’m talking trash bags.

First of all: do trash bags decompose? The short answer: Scientists are not entirely sure. There’s plenty of information out there about this so I’ll write only briefly on the decomposition process: biodegradation is defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as “a process by which microbial organisms transform or alter (through metabolic or enzymatic action) the structure of chemicals introduced into the environment.”  Now, the base of most plastic bags we use today are made of a polyethylene base which microbial organisms do not register as digestible. The Daily Green writes that though the bag doesn’t biodegrade it does undergo photodegradation: a plastic bag will photodegrade when ultraviolet rays from the sun cause the polyethylene polymer chains to become brittle and then break down. The bag then breaks down into synthetic granules but that doesn’t mean it’s completely degraded. Those granules can work their way into the soil and then into the food chain for the rest of the animal kingdom. That’s right, this means at some point it could work its way through the food chain and into the human diet (and probably already has).

Now hold on, don’t work yourself into a panic. There is already a compostable synthetic plastic bag being distributed to those wanting, though it is mostly present in San Francisco where plastic bags are banned in the chain shopping markets and the pharmacies. Would you like to pitch in to reducing the plastic bag waste in your area? Choose paper when you can as it biodegrades in a matter of weeks. Also, I suggest investing in those reusable cloth tote bags – just toss them in the car for when you go for groceries. Can’t remember to bring them back into the car? Try folding and leaving them by the door so you remember to take them to the car the next time you head out – or better yet, hang them on the door knob. You’ll remember for sure! If you want to read more on the subject you can follow the link above to the Daily Green article or search the internet. Or you can contact your local recycling office center to ask for more info. I can tell you that in South Africa they have found that increasing taxes on plastic bags has helped to reduce the use and waste of them. Do you think that’s a good idea?

Now, onto the second half of the title: art. Air and fashion art to be exact. I’d heard about the trash bag clothes before but tying bags to the vents over subway tunnels was new to me.

First, the fashion. Call me old fashioned but I like my comfy cottons and button up shirts, and it’ll be a very low point in my life before I wear a trash bag as clothing (pending a protest or some sort of exhibition). At least not like this or these:

Although I do have to say that this one does not look too bad:

You can see the bag handles with the red lining at the bottom of the sleeves. I do like the dress design though and if I had an event to wear this cut to I would not shy from the opportunity. Here’s a question for you: if I hadn’t told you ahead of time that this was composed of trash bags, is that what you would think at first glance? Tell you what, turn your head away, count to ten, then glance back at the image above – just for one second – and then try to process what it’s made of (rule out plastic). What material does it look like to you?

Now for the zoo in the city streets. Want to see some cool animal art? Lookie here:

Interesting, no? I won’t photo dump all the trash bag animals on here as you can do an image search for more but there are a wide variety of things tied over the city vents: centaurs, horses, giant worms, dogs, etc. How is it done? It’s extremely simple in concept: you attach several plastic bags together with tape to make an enclosed shape. Next you tie only a few open hole sections (the feet of your flexible plastic animal) to the vents set in the sidewalks. When the subway passes by underneath the air exhaust from the movement inflates your shaped bags and wa-la! Plastic animals. If you try this make sure to fasten the bags on well. We wouldn’t want them to blow off and become a hazard to drivers.

That is the whole of your curious-Kiri scoop for the week. What new things have you learned about today?

Until next week, happy trails~

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