This Museum Exhibit Offers a Very Specific Glimpse of What Plastic Has Done to the Ocean

Not the most savory soup

There's something like 150 billion kilograms of plastic—what is that, 330 billion pounds?—floating in the sea. 

That stuff is probably never going to disappear; it breaks down into microplastics instead, dispersed across the seas. Some people creatively call this "plastic soup"—relevant, given that humans and all other planetary life are now eating and drinking plastic constantly.

What does that do to the body? Nobody knows. But maybe it doesn't matter, because this is all just a video game anyway.

Dopper, a reusable water bottle nonprofit based in the Netherlands, had a thought: It's hard for people to deal with abstractions (like the one above). To help us reckon with the idea of plastic soup, it built a nifty installation called the Oceanic Plasticarium, which brings the public eye-to-eye with our PET porridge.

Dopper - used once, lasts forever

The cube is sitting in Amsterdam's Tropenmuseum and measures 55 inches on all sides. Created by Dopper's in-house creatives and freelance team Scott Kooken and Michael James Philips—who won Young Lions gold at Cannes in 2017—the Oceanic Plasticarium contains 713 gallons of water, sourced by Greenpeace from the Pacific Ocean (coordinates 135°W 35°N—we like this specificity!). 

The Tropenmuseum is billed as a museum of world cultures. And well before seeing any of humanity's better contributions, viewers will be treated to the plastic soup, prominently perched in the museum's main hall, making it a point of focus. 

"People often see plastic waste as such an overpowering problem that feels ... too big to do anything about. Our goal with this project is to change that," says Merijn Everaarts, founder of Dopper. "We are encouraging everyone to take ownership. Plastic soup is something we have created together, and we're all part of both the problem and the solution." 

The exhibit also introduces Dopper's new water bottle, the insulated Black & White. The organization's goal is to get people to drink tap water, which is safe to drink in most Western countries, instead of buying disposable plastic bottles. 

Five percent of Dopper's net sales go to supporting global water projects. Every Dopper buyer apparently saves the planet from another 40 single-use water bottles each year. That doesn't sound like much, but the company says that since its inception, the ocean has been spared about almost 90 million pounds of single-use plastic. 

The Oceanic Plasticarium will soon embark on an international tour. 

"By altering our behavior, together we can make single-use plastics a thing of the past," says Everaarts. "Our aim is to banish plastic soup to the history books—so that in the future, the only place you will ever be able to see it will be in museums like the Tropenmuseum." 

CREDITS

Concept - Creative direction: Scott Kooken and Michael James Philips
PR consultant: Jessica Hartley 
Film - Edit: Martijn Ras 
Event photography: Fabian Calis

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is a founding contributor to Muse. She is also the co-founder of esports agency Hurrah.gg, and co-author of Generation Creation.