By Harry Patchett and Evelyn Daniela
Shockingly beautiful and it’s meant to be! Evelyn Daniela is an Israeli artist transforming trash into impact statements about her country’s consumption and disposal of single use plastic.
Israel is a small country yet Israelis’ addiction to single use plastic make its beaches some of the most polluted in the Mediterranean Sea.
- 90% of pollution found on Israeli beaches is plastic, compared to the world average of 75%
- Israel also has one of the highest rates of trash output per capita in the world, reported by conservation group Plastic Free Israel
These statistics produce feelings of hopelessness, but it is in these moments of fear that Evelyn shines. Her art humanises plastic pollution in a way that transcends social boundaries and provides awareness and most importantly hope that as an international community we can positively impact ocean health.
We met Evelyn recently in Israel and she shared her journey from backpacker to a Zero Waste Artist.
EVELYN: I first started cleaning beaches, forests and mountains while traveling the world 4 years ago. I was surprised to see how even some very remote places suffer from pollution; I felt responsible and sorry on behalf of humankind and wanted to try and repair whatever I could, so I cleaned!
Early on in 2018, I went to the first-ever cleanup organised by a group called Plastic Free Israel (PFI). That day I met the incredible Stav Friedman who started the movement on social media and we have been working together since! Over the last 2 years, I’ve been leading cleanups, organising educational events, writing content for PFI and co-directing the movement locally with my awesome friend, Ariel Shay.
Over the past few years I’ve learnt so much about the environment and have become more aware of the issues surrounding endangered species and plastic pollution. I also became really interested in the idea of activism through art and the beautiful yet educating abilities of ‘trash art’.
After cleanups, I would keep plastic trash to make art installations for PFI and other NGOs. I would photograph the trash and microplastics in artistic ways and slowly started to specialise in Zero Waste Art, that doesn’t create more waste or use hot glue or plastic adhesives. I wanted the only plastic in my pieces to be repurposed or from cleanups, so I taught myself how to work with drills, disc cutters, jigsaws and heavy-duty working tools. I also used sewing skills that I learned from my grandma to make sustainable and long lasting art with a message – and without virgin plastics.
The “Butt Jacket” in the photo was made for Clean the Butts (CTB) NGO, as a part of their “Turn Butts Into Art” campaign to raise awareness about cigarette butt pollution. Cigarette butts are the most commonly found items of litter in the world and CTB has picked up over 80,000 cigarette butts on the beaches of Tel Aviv in just a few months. I found out not only that the butts are plastic but that they’re extremely toxic and all the toxins that are absorbed into the filter end up polluting the ocean and are eaten by wildlife. Why, again, is it ok to throw them on the ground? Why are there laws but no one ever enforces them? Why is it bad for us to take that poison, but ok for us to poison our planet? I took a deep breath and went back to art.
To make this piece, I hand-sewed over 4,000 cigarette butts into the jacket to help CTB spread the message about toxic plastic pollution in an educational and engaging way. The “Butt Jacket” is one of my most exciting pieces and has been a great conversation piece at environmental events and on social media. I still have many ideas for big installations in mind, with the intention to make them pretty but shocking, to make people wonder about their behaviour and give them motivation to change it to help our planet.
I’m thankful for Plastic Free Israel for giving me the courage, the tools, the platform and the knowledge to do what I do. May all of us, plastic fighters, trash artist, organisations and change makers achieve our goals to make our planet cleaner and healthier!
Evelyn is a founding member of Plastic Free Israel and sources her trash materials from regular beach clean ups near Tel Aviv. You can connect with Evelyn and view her work on Instagram @wild_evi, or on Facebook here.