Recycled Treasures

Russians highlight plastic waste in the sea through art

It's not news that the ocean and its inhabitants are threatened by pollution and plastic is one key threat to the sea, however, the problem persists. Two Russians living in Thailand have collaborated in an attempt to alleviate the situation through an art exhibition called "Gifts Of The Sea". Guru speaks with artist Anna Zolotukhina and Elena Kondratyeva, CEO of Whale Tail Phuket, about their exhibition at Central: The Original Store, which runs until June 26.

What inspired the creation of the artworks?

Elena: First, what inspired me to start the project [Whale Tail Phuket] for plastic recycling is the waste problem. We live in Phuket, near the beach. I have two kids. We often go to the beaches of Phuket and see lots of plastic.

Anna: She and I think this is a very important problem.

Elena: When we moved to Thailand eight years ago, the beaches were cleaner but now every year I see this problem more and more. Research says in the last 10 years the amount of plastic waste has doubled.

Anna: Tripled.

Elena: Yes, that's true. We started to organise beach clean-ups. But there's more and more plastic waste every year. So I started to recycle the plastic. I was following the community that does creative plastic recycling. Then I bought my first recycling machine two and a half years ago and we're starting to build our own machines now, so people can recycle more plastic. We raise awareness by making bright-coloured art from recycled plastic. Anna came to Thailand a year ago and we collaborated to make some art from recycled plastic.

Anna: We all have the same problems. We have kids, so we need to think about the future.

Elena Kondratyeva and Anna Zolotukhina. (Photos: Central: The Orginal Store)

How did this collaboration come about?

Anna: We're friends and we clean beaches together. We see that it's a very important problem that we need to help solve. We think of what we can do. I'm an artist, she has the machines and is educated on the subject.

Elena: I'm not an artist, I'm just organising the project because I'm interested in recycling plastic and raising awareness for people. I've built an eco-friendly recycling community in Phuket. We also join other communities that do eco-friendly art. Together, we can really make more of an impact than if I'm only doing it by myself.

Anna: Us collaborating means it will bring more people.

Elena: As an artist, Anna was also interested in working with recycled plastic and I need an artist to create something. I'm a bit of an artist myself because I am quite creative but she's a professional, so she knows how to design things and how they will turn out. All I can do is bring people together for a cause.

Why is the exhibition called 'Gifts Of The Sea'?

Anna: Because it's plastic from the sea. The main idea of our exhibition and what we're doing is to explain to people that they need to reduce usage. Plastic waste should be recycled. Right now we're engaging with it linearly, we take from nature, use it and then we produce pollution in nature. In a perfect world, it should be circular, when you take something from nature you should give something back to nature. Don't give waste to nature, give something good. This is something we need to change.

Elena: Some people have started to try to change what's happening and the amount of these people is growing every year. I think people like us are doing things to raise awareness to stop buying plastic. I personally ­never buy foods and vegetables in plastic, you'll never see me with a plastic bag. I'm doing it strictly and I'm fighting every day.

Anna: She wants to change the world.

Elena: I'm changing my small world. If everyone behaves the same way, the world would be better.

What are the highlights of this exhibition?

Elena: What we want to do is give more information to people and our art grabs attention because it's bright and it's something different. All our art is supported with information. When people come to see it, they might like the way it looks, but we also try to make them think by providing information. Every piece is a highlight in itself because every piece is unique and everything is handmade out of plastic waste. They all contain some beach plastic we've taken during our clean-ups. All that we're doing is from recycled materials.

What is your favourite way of contributing to the environment?

Elena: We like to attract people and point to the problem with art. This is our main contribution. We like to teach them with our experiences through art because it's attractive and everyone can understand art.

Anna: It's more interesting with art and maybe some people will think about the problem or change their minds about the subject.

Elena: Sometimes it's more expensive to be eco-friendly, but we should pay more, we should pay nature, otherwise we will be paying a very expensive price in the end.

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