Of all the current threats facing humanity in the present day, nothing seems more imminent than the prospect of climate change, a drastic and ongoing effect that us humans have arguably forced to come quicker than expected. From record-breaking temperatures to increasingly polluted oceans and water sources, we’re currently in the midst of a critical fight to help slow the course of an environmentally detrimental future.
Earlier this month, we took a close look at how 3D printing technology may soon become a viable asset in the battle to help preserve our planet. Researchers have even been utilizing the emerging technology with chemistry to help remove pollutants from our air and water. But, not all of the environmentally conscious efforts with 3D printing have to be rooted in science, sometimes an artistic expression can raise awareness and save a piece of the environment at the same time. At least this was the case for the Dutch artist Peter Smith, who launched a project last year that aimed to use 100,000 used plastic bottles as 3D printer filament to print a 12-meter-long Plastic Madonna statue for the Olympic Games in Rio.
The project was originally initiated by Smith and Merijn Everaarts, the owner of the Dutch company Dopper, which produces recyclable plastic water bottles. Last month, Smith’s project came to fruition as a Plastic Madonna statue appeared on the Botafogo beach in Rio de Janeiro during World Oceans Day, which took place on June 8. This statue was made from litter picked up in the area, and unveiled at the same time as a 1.2-meter 3D printed version was shown in Amsterdam.
“On World Ocean Day is revealed by plastic Madonna in the final design FabCity in Amsterdam in the form of a scale model of 1.2 meters long. This image is 3D printers made from recycled plastic and is a prelude to the 12 meter version where foundation KLEAN with many volunteers working on. This great image will be made of recycled plastic bottles and picked up with 3D printers,” the Klean Foundation noted (translated from Dutch).
“Also, on June 8 at Botafogo beach in Rio de Janeiro a plastic Madonna twelve meters are revealed long festive. This image is made from locally picked up litter and designed by artist Eric Fuly along with a team of people from the favelas. This image is part of the Brazilian Plastic Madonna project came about thanks to the Dutch company Dopper.”
The final, fully finished and 3D printed statue is set for hopeful completion in 2017. The Brazilian statue is constructed out of recycled plastic, created by Brazilian artist Eric Fuly and fully based on Smith’s original design. The reused bottles depict a mother breastfeeding her child, and symbolizes the unintentional poisoning of her baby with plastic molecules.
Not only has the project helped Rio rid its beaches of around 65 kilos of plastic, which accounts for around 4000 bottles, it’s also helped the average citizen become more aware of the negative impact that plastic waste has on our environment and livelihood. And now, with the Olympic Games pulling the world’s attention towards Rio, the Plastic Madonna is in a place where it stands to gain international recognition. A team of volunteers have been collecting this plastic waste from Brazilian beaches for months. Simultaneously, across the Atlantic Ocean, in Amsterdam, Smith produced a smaller-scale version of the Plastic Madonna sculpture with 3D printing technology, turning recycled bottles into a usable filament.
“The underlying philosophy is that the plastic soup originated by the thought ‘Oh, that one piece of debris from me, what does that make?’. By this thought to turn around and pick up one piece of litter every day, we can stop the growth of plastic soup anyway. And we see that small actions the cause but also the solution of major durability problems. Numerous technological solutions are devised to combat the effects of the problem, and the solution ultimately lies with ourselves,” Klean explained (translated).
This miniaturized version of the art project was 3D printed and showcased at the Amsterdam-based FabCity campus, a global initiative to support the sharing of urban solutions to help emerging cities become self-sufficient by the year 2054. Smith is the founder of the Klean Foundation, an environmentally-conscious initiative that has helped the Plastic Madonna project spread across the world. By next June, Smith and his team plan to unveil a 12-meter version of the Plastic Madonna on the Scheveningen beach in Holland.
The official Plastic Madonna site also notes a widely reported inaccuracy they wish to address:
“Despite what you may read on the net or in newspapers; the Plastic Madonna is not an initiative by the Dopper. It is an in initiative by Peter Smith. Together with the Klean Foundation we are working to make this project a succes. The Dopper helped with creating this part of the project in Brazil. We are grateful for that, we are less grateful for Dopper pretending they initiated this project.”
Discuss further over in the 3D Printed Madonna forum at 3DPB.com.
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