The world produces 260 million tons of plastic every year, and 10 percent of it ends up in our oceans either degrading at a painfully slow rate or not degrading at all. Artist Benjamin Von Wong wants to send a message: The smallest action can make the biggest impact. Even something as simple as saying “no thanks” to a plastic straw.

The numbers are constantly rising and soon the earth won’t be able to take it anymore. Among these troublesome pollutants is the humble plastic straw. Durable, too small to recycle and usually only used once, straws make up a huge portion of unnecessary plastic waste.

artist Von Wong and helpers sort through thousands of plastic straws for the art installation

Related: Volvo creates the living seawall in Sydney to help with plastic pollution

Thankfully this epidemic is beginning to gain attention. With the help of volunteers, Starbucks Vietnam and Zero Waste Saigon, Von Wong spent six months gathering used plastic straws to turn into “The Parting of the Plastic Sea.”

artist Von Wong collecting yellow plastic straws for the installation

The art installation, also known as “strawpocalypse,” took over two weeks to create. To represent different parts of the wave, the straws were divided by color and connected together and formed into the flowing base, the white froth and the yellow sand. Volunteers spent hours arranging the straws to mimic paint brush strokes. Plastic bags were used to support the straws onto the structure and to act as a diffuser for the LED lighting.

artist Von Wong building the plastic straw art installation

“The plastic problem is either out of sight, out of mind– or so omnipresent that it becomes invisible,” says Von Wong. “I wanted to use art to tackle both angles – by creating something beautiful and unique out of an environmental tragedy.”

“Strawpocalypse” was truly a team effort. Along with the volunteers, Von Wong had the help of Nick Moser, a technical builder in SF, Stefan Suknjaja, an escape room designer in Serbia and Fosha Zyang, a local set designer.

art installation made with used plastic straws

When it came to arranging the straws everything came together organically. Since it was difficult to predict exactly how the structure would look once finished, it was exciting for everyone when the piece finally began to come together.

The piece currently resides inside the atrium at Estella Place in Ho Chi Minh City, giving viewers a chance to see “strawpocalypse” from a 360-degree angle. They also built a plastic background with a “sun” effect with LED light panels and galvanized wire to prevent distraction.

art installation made with used plastic straws

The art installation is fitting, “something so large that if anybody walked by, they couldn’t help but ignore,” according to the artist.

So next time you think to yourself “it’s only one straw,” just remember that eight billion other people are saying the same thing.

“Strawpocalypse” will be looking for a new home starting in late March 2019, those interested can visit thestrawpocalypse.com

+ Von Wong

Images via Von Wong

art installation made with used plastic straws