Microplastic Recycling Bins Hit the Streets

CEPA Gallery has collaborated with artist Nicole Chochrek to launch a new public “art bin” project that will teach people the importance of recycling plastics. As microplastics in the environment become ever-present – even in fish, animals, and humans – it’s time to figure out how we can begin to make some big changes in the way that we live. Our current consumption habits are not working, and will continue to adversely affect the planet.

To that end, six plastic collection boxes, built from retired newspaper recycling bins, will be places at strategic locations throughout the region, in hopes that people will dispose of plastic before it can enter into the environment in the form of near-invisible nanoparticles.

Chochrek’s work is based on the accessibility and digestibility of information, deep listening, and shared responsibilities.

According to Chochrek, these are not typical recycling containers. Rather, they are meant to keep smaller scraps of plastic off the sidewalks, streets, lawns, parks… and even our homes. If you have ever conducted a cleanup in a commercial district, then you have noticed that upon sweeping, much of the smaller debris is that of small pieces of plastic. When a rainstorm comes along, those pieces of plastic are swept away, down the sewer drains. During heavier storms, the plastics are diverted to combined sewer overflows, that wash the plastic particles directly into our waterways. From there, they continue to break down into microplastics.

The public can participate in this project by collecting small plastics from home or outside.

Says Chochrek, “There is a lot of healthy skepticism around recycling, and whether or not it has the impact it claims to have. This project appropriates the existing system while providing transparency and educational resources. It gives participants the opportunity to learn about the significance of their contributions and to see how it is collected and transformed. We focus on the smaller plastics, that are often missed and can’t be recycled in traditional ways. The goal of these Microplastic Recycling Bins serves to beautify our communities, build stewardship of the land, and educate us on the impact of plastic pollution. It extends a colorful invitation that I hope encourages participation and cultivates creative solutions.”

As an interdisciplinary artist, Chochrek utilizes performative frameworks to explore contemporary issues of environmental disparities. 

The installation of the six Microplastic Recycling Bins will coincide with neighborhood cleanups, as well as small celebrations. Chochrek will host the initial installation celebration and community clean-up event on May 31 at Springville Center for the Arts. The plastic pieces collected by each bin will ultimately converted into “beautiful trash-as-art objects,” to demonstrate that there are creative ways to upcycle plastics.

“That’s the magic. The plastic collected will not only be forever out of our lands but also given new value as fine art objects that continue to advocate for environmental stewardship through Chochrek’s art practice,” says Veronique Cote, project curator, and Florida Atlantic University Galleries Director. “By selling  beautiful trash as art objects, she questions our value systems. She brings attention to the growing impact our waste has on the environment while simultaneously holding space for togetherness, inclusivity, and creative discussions on important topics such as neurodiversity, environmental stewardship, and human rights.”

This project guides participants in a kinesthetic learning experience per the impact of plastic pollution, and actively helps remove it from their neighborhood environment.

The boxes will be outside from June to October 2023. The public can participate in this project by collecting small plastics from home or outside.

The project is made possible by Creative Rebuild New York, a New York State Endowment for the Arts Initiative,  in partnership with the Buffalo Arts Commission, the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Unity Island, The Foundry, Tifft Nature Preserve, Springville Center For-Arts, and more. For information on the project, other box locations, and dates visit:

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