Arts & Design

The Museum of Plastic brings plastic pollution solutions to Art Basel Miami

At Miami’s famous art fair, artists at this pop-up use their creativity to help make the world’s oceans plastic-free.

By Sunshine Flint — December 5, 2019

This week, the art world descends on Miami for the annual Art Basel fair, now in its 17th year, and Miami Art Week, which consists of around two dozen satellite art fairs and numerous special shows and events. From the opening of the 100,000-square-foot Rubell Museum in Allapattah, Miami’s latest up-and-coming arts neighborhood, to the 269 exhibiting galleries from around the world inside the Miami Beach Convention Center, the creative cognoscenti are buzzing across the city, from the Wynwood Walls to Ocean Drive. This artsy crowd is the backdrop for the second opening of Lonely Whale’s Museum of Plastic pop up (open Dec. 6-8, admission free) at the Miami Beach EDITION hotel in Mid-Beach. The Museum’s unique exhibits are focused on innovative ways of drawing people into its goal of eliminating single-use plastic water bottles.

Only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled and eight million tons of it ends up in the world’s oceans every year. The Museum of Plastic, which was launched in New York last summer during World Oceans Week, takes visitors through interactive exhibits to showcase how the 500 billion plastic water bottles produced annually affect the planet and what can be done to end the devastating effects of plastic pollution in our oceans.

Craig Barritt/Getty Images

Actor and Lonely Whale co-founder Adrian Grenier speaks at the opening of the Museum of Plastic in New York earlier this year.

Lonely Whale co-founder, actor, and environmentalist Adrian Grenier described the New York show as a “bright, poppy plastic service announcement designed to get your attention. Because if there is no joy, there is nothing to fight for.” In Miami it’s the same upbeat message for a new crowd, written in (eco) glitter. 

“We want to highlight something exciting in the world of plastic,” says Dune Ives, executive director of Lonely Whale, an award-winning nonprofit focused on bringing creative ideas to life to save our oceans. “Miami during Art Basel is the kind of place where art and culture can come together to help our environment. The kind of conversations you can have with the artists and individuals here is very special.” 

At the EDITION, which itself is a leader in the hospitality industry with its Stay Plastic Free campaign, visitors walk through the Ocean Voyage Room that shows a flourishing ocean with healthy coral, plants, crustaceans, fish, and other marine life slowly filling with plastic waste. The Plastic Money exhibit reveals an oversized receipt showing how much we as a planet spend on single-use plastic water bottles and what that money could be spent on instead to help the environment. Brand collaborator and partner HP has viewing monitors where visitors can watch a short film about the company’s groundbreaking recycling project in Haiti that removes ocean-bound plastic and creates new jobs, which has resulted in upcycling 35 million plastic bottles (more than one million pounds) into Original HP Ink cartridges.

HP is also introducing an innovative new partnership with fashion designer Heron Preston, a 2019 CFDA Emerging Designer of the Year nominee known for his streetwear separates and shoes, and who has made a commitment to creating sustainable fashion. Heron Preston and HP have collaborated on a pilot program to create a compostable pouch as an alternative to plastic polybags. The 200 limited-edition pouches are derived from FSC- and PEFC-certified wood pulp and are printed on HP Indigo ElectroInks, a first for the fashion industry that could replace the plastic bags used in retail packaging. 

Streetwear designer and artist Heron Preston.

Streetwear designer and artist Heron Preston.

“From textiles to packaging, I’ve made it my mission to identify sustainable solutions for the fashion industry,” said Heron Preston, founder of Heron Preston. “This collaboration between the company Heron Preston and HP is a great example of the positive change that can happen when brands come together to support a shared mission.”

Preston will also hand paint 15 Tango Terra smart home printers live at the opening, which will be raffled off during the event. The certified carbon neutral Tango Terra is the world’s most sustainable home printing system, made using 30% recycled plastic, plastic-free packaging, and cartridges with 48-73% recycled content that includes ocean-bound plastic, just part of HP’s commitment to finding lasting solutions to global plastic pollution. 

“I’m optimistic we can solve this plastic problem,” says Ellen Jackowski, HP’s global head of sustainability. “Taking this message to this incredible art community is important — they wield a level of influence and inspiration.”

The clever displays are imbued with this same sense of optimism and positivity at the Museum, which is part of Lonely Whale’s Question How You Hydrate campaign that asks individuals, organizations, and companies to commit to stop using single-use plastic water bottles and provides them with toolkits on how to use sustainable alternatives at work, at home, and in leadership positions.

“In a world full of bad news, plastic is solvable,” says Ives. “Our partners HP and the EDITION inspire other businesses, while Heron cultivates his art to help a cause he is passionate about. We know how to solve it, now it is down to the will of leaders and politicians. Our aim is that these conversations about solving the plastic pollution crisis will begin a cultural transformation.”


See how HP is using recycled plastics to make new ink cartridges in this Tennessee manufacturing facility.