The profusion of plastic waste is one of the major challenges facing our planet’s oceans. Among the contributors to this problem are single-use plastics such as cutlery, balloons, plastic bags, and wrappers. These small items are often swallowed by sea life and their decay is slow. A plastic straw in the ocean can remain for 200 years, while a plastic cup can last up to 450 years. To help combat this growing problem, the European Union has banned certain common single-use plastics as of July 3, 2021.
The ban was proposed in 2018 and decided by EU leadership in 2019. Known as the Single-Use Plastics Directive, the ban is “tackling the 10 single-use plastic items most commonly found on Europe’s beaches, and is promoting sustainable alternatives.” The ban is part of larger efforts for “Zero Waste Europe” and the vision of a circular economy. Places such as restaurants have had ample warning and the switch to reusable or biodegradable options will come into effect next month.
What happens when single-use plastics are (eventually) a thing of the past? Designers Kai Linke and Peter Eckart along with curator Thomas A. Geisler have constructed an exhibit entitled Spoon Archaeology Exhibition. The exhibit is the German contribution to the London Design Biennale 2021. The exhibit hopes to examine design’s role in culture and waste. The designers have collected disposable, mass-produced cutlery in a variety of materials, shapes, and colors. These pieces are laid out as archeological objects of study, much like a display you’d find in a Natural History Museum. Certainly in Europe, the plastic spoon is headed the way of the the dinosaur.