There are so many angles to fighting plastic and making the world a more beautiful place. One person with an unusual approach is Hannah Tizedes, a 'plastic pollution communicator' who creates incredible and thought provoking artworks made from plastic trash.
Thanks for joining us Hannah, and thanks for the work that you do. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Thank you for having me!
I grew up surrounded by the Great Lakes, and if you know these lakes you know their deep beauty. I began to take notice of just how much trash was washing up on the shore, to the point that I felt the need to take deeper action.
But then life happened, and I found myself wandering Europe, unemployed and beachcombing, sitting in my room creating tiny temporary art pieces made of collected trash. Fast forward to me flying back across the world with a backpack full of literal trash. My collection and art projects have continued to grow since then.
Your work is so delicate. It is tiny pieces of plastic. And yet, each piece is part of a giant problem. Tell us about your process.
It’s shocking just how much plastic washes up on shores around the world and just how small these pieces can be. Being so close to the Great Lakes, I unfortunately don’t have to look far to find it.
On a typical cleanup day, I’ll head to the shoreline with my thrifted colander and a couple reusable bags and return with them filled to the brim. I carefully wash the pieces and then lay them out to dry. After, I organize the pieces by color and begin creating.
It’s a time consuming process, as so many of the pieces are itty bitty and my fingers can so easily distort the final vision. But I also find it meditative and once I get into the rhythm, I find myself creating for hours on end.
We’re also based in the Midwest and it sometimes seems a bit abstract that we are creating a product that is intended to help oceans that are thousands of miles away. Talk about your connection to water.
While it’s true that we’re both far from the ocean, we’re actually a lot more connected than it may seem. Our inlands, streams, rivers and lakes bleed out into our oceans just like a big woven web. One piece of plastic that enters a sewer in Michigan could break down into fragments, that then break down into microplastics that make their way all the way out to the ocean. Not to mention the fact that more studies are revealing the microplastics present in our foods and bodies.
We have a line that we use occasionally, aimed at the beauty industry. “Beauty is part of the ugly” and you are playing in that same weird space, taking something ugly, making it into something beautiful. Can you tell us more about this aspect of your work?
My hope is that by illustrating a connection between plastic pollution and our daily consumption habits, it would inspire people to take action. Whether that’s ditching a single-use item from their routine or starting a conversation with a friend, small actions add up.
What tips do you have for someone who wants to live a less trashy lifestyle?
Become more mindful of what you’re tossing into the trash bin. By doing mini waste audits to see what you’re throwing away on a weekly basis, you can learn what swaps make the most sense for you. Progress over perfection!
Has your art changed your own behavior? Or is it the other way around, you were already living with less plastic and your work grew from there?
My studies in college included sustainability along with working at the campus recycling center, so I was conscious of my environmental footprint. However, having the tangible experience of picking up over 25,000+ pieces of plastic from the Great Lakes alone has sharpened my focus on the issue.
What parts of your life, if any, are still maddeningly filled with unavoidable amounts of plastic?
For me, it’s groceries! It’s hard to find sufficient bulk and zero waste options near where I live. And in all honesty - I’m a sucker for beautiful packaging (though my favorite is plastic-free!) But the reality is, it’s not easy to buy 100% of your groceries plastic-free in the majority of communities. There’s still a lot of plastic packaging to be cut from my grocery runs. I also always have my reusable produce baggies in hand and I make trips to the local farmers market when I can.
We know you’ve tried one of our solid shampoo bars and we hope you loved it, and the conditioner bar, too. Not to fish for compliments, but…
I was trying loads of different solid shampoo and conditioner bars on my journey to finding HiBar and it’s been my tried and true! I love the sudsy wash it provides and the shape is by far the best I’ve seen in a solid option. It’s easy to grasp and lather which is so helpful and the fact it’s design is inspired by river rocks from the Great Lakes makes it all that more special for me.
What other plastic-free switches have you tried and enjoyed?
There are so many! Recently, I finally found tooth tabs that I love! There’s my metal razor that will last me a lifetime, a refillable skincare remedy, and my silicone menstrual cup (you wouldn’t believe how many plastic tampon applicators I find at the beach!).
Thanks so much Hannah, and let us know how we can help you spread the word!
About the artist
Hannah Tizedes is a Michigan-based artist who makes beautiful, thought provoking pieces from the plastic trash she collects from the Great Lakes near her home. You can see more of her work on her Instagram @thetrashycollection
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