With dapao (takeaway food) on the rise, the inevitable issue of plastic waste haunts us more than ever now. While some are doing their part to offer plastic alternatives or introduce more recycling methods, etc., this Malaysia is turning the crisis into an educational opportunity.
“We decided to raise awareness by making sculptures with discarded plastic packaging and at the same time show people that the material is worth a second life,” said Oscar Lee, one of the artists behind it. Co2, shared with Vulcan Post.
Co2 is an art project that recycles waste into sculptures. They are currently working on a project called Hutan Tutan which includes plastic sculptures of endangered animals in Malaysia.
From architecture to sculpture
In addition to Oscar, Celine, his partner, is also part of the team behind Co2, which was founded in 2017. The couple met at Taylor’s Lakeside and graduated in architectural design. By now they are based in Muar.
Oscar was never a sculptor himself, but he did build many models in college. “I would say I was inspired by a TV show called ‘Art Attack’ during my childhood and with my mother’s company, I always managed to make some crafts or sculptures along with it.”
Before Hutan Tutan, the first project the duo got into was Eyes of the Guardian, which was an art installation made with ruffles and discarded aluminum cans.
Hutan Tutan is a project dedicated to raising awareness of endangered animals in Malaysia through 10 different animal sculptures. Each sculpture will be placed in a primary school in different districts of Johor.
These animal sculptures will be colorless and transparent, and Oscar explained that this idea is a metaphor for endangered species to leave their skin or shell that is usually transparent.
“Like a crayfish or a snake that makes a skin cover, endangered species only leave the skin before disappearing. We know there was a locust around because we saw its skin, but that also shows that we know it’s no longer there. ”
As they are raising awareness in schools, Oscar and Celine partnered with an ecology educator, who will join them in giving talks on their school visits about endangered species and how to protect the environment. .
Primary schools were chosen because young children are very receptive to this knowledge and have an affection for animals and wildlife, which Oscar himself experienced as a child.
Actively looking for plastic trash
To make sculptures as large as they are you need to get large amounts of plastic, and the duo is currently outsourcing it to the local community of Muar.
They have publicly shared their studio address so people can leave the plastic containers at the door, which they both wash and let dry under the sun before using them for the sculptures.
“At the moment we are only asking for help from Muar because the first animal will be placed in one of the primary schools in Muar, which is where I live. Another reason why we chose Muar as the location for our first sculpture is that we couldn’t cross borders, so it’s easier to start here first, ”Oscar clarified.
Speaking of which, the first sculpture will be the Malay tapir, which is 1m high and 2m long. The tapir is already 85% made and has so far consumed 280 pieces of plastic, but they still need an additional 70 pieces to complete it.
After the tapir, the couple shared that they will sculpt the Malaysian tiger, the Asian elephant, the Born orangutan, the Sun Bear, the current one, the monkey Proboscis, the Sumatran rhino (now extinct), the black leopard and siamang (the largest of the gibbons).
The Johorean districts in which they plan to place these sculptures are Batu Pahat, Mersing, Tangkak, Kota Tinggi, Johor Bahru, Kulai, Kluang, Pontian and Segamat. For convenience, the sculptures in each district will get the plastic waste from the local community and the sculpture will also be created there.
“For this whole project, we estimate that about 4,750 pieces of plastic will be stored,” Oscar told Vulcan Post.
All the plastic waste given to them is used in the sculptures and they stressed that even if there are plastics that are not suitable for a sculpture, they will keep them for future potential projects or to use them as to packaging for the next. .
Their subjects are not even familiar to them
Since neither of them has seen either of these animals in person, the ideation was a struggle for them, as they can only imagine them from the internet. Therefore, Oscar and Celine have to study their anatomy tediously through documentaries to capture their figures accurately.
Also, working with plastic is not easy, especially when you have to deal with stubborn food waste, such as hard-to-wash oils, as well as the smell of burnt plastic with your heat gun while sculpting. To help, they will wear a gas mask and make sure the space is properly ventilated while they are there.
The cost of running CO2 is not a problem, as, after all, most of the raw materials they would need come from crowdsourcing. But what Oscar and Celine struggle with is time, as they have their own job and can only work alongside the project. To add, it’s not something they earn income from.
“This project needs at least a year to complete. After that, we plan to do something related to our ocean pollution or marine life. I will also explore new materials, plastic or not, and see how it goes, ”said Oscarscar.
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The idea of turning waste into something new has been around for a while, even in Malaysia. A duo that has turned garbage into robot toy masterpieces is IBFCM, for example.
Abroad, many sculptors and artists have tried to donate plastic waste a second life too. It looks like Oscar and Celine have no plans to monetize their hobby at the moment, but if they wanted to, they could probably target art collectors with special tastes.
If their idea also gains strength and attention, perhaps they could work on paid projects with schools to bring CO2 to the rest of Malaysia, to the benefit of early childhood education. One thing you should be wary of about CO2 is how sculptures will be handled and disposed of in the future.
There will probably come a day when schools no longer want to keep them and they will be too out of shape to continue fixing them. CO2 should work with schools to recycle waste or reuse it for another project. Either way, it shouldn’t just be pollution again.
- You can find out more about CO2 here.
- You can read about greener initiatives we’ve written about here.
Featured Image Credit: Oscar and Celine, CO2 founders and sculptors