Plastic Fountain – by Enrico Bernardis

A research conducted by OrbMedia [1] [2] estimates that around 83% of the tap water in the world contains microplastic fibres. Microplastic fibres constitute the most invisible yet dangerous kind of pollution related to plastic waste, as at this stage the microscopical particles enter the alimentary chain. It is a pollution not exclusively related to the decline of solid plastic waste in the natural environment: microplastics are present in cosmetics and are produced by synthetic clothes washing.

My project is designed to put in evidence this invisible pollution. It is composed of a fountain installed in a public space. A vaporizer spills onto a collection of high quality tropical plastic plants that direct and turns the falling water into a continue delicate dripping. A mesh is disposed under the plants, suspended from the ground; it is composed of a special synthetic fabric able to block microplastic fibres [3]. The mesh may slowly gather the little amount of plastic coming from the water and the imperceptible decline of the plastic plant’s surfaces.

The plastic plants deal with the irresponsible superficiality that transforms a very durable matter into kitsch, useless or disposable products. They also underline the beauty of the sculptural and functional natural forms as well the great imitative ability of the human technologies. If the Ben-Gurion University has developed a bacteria genetically modified to feed off polyethene-terephthalate [4], we can maybe optimistically imagine a future where plastic plants will be as degradable as natural ones: a future this project wants to deal with also.

The project will be realized with the collaboration of Stop!MicroWaste [5], a no-profit organization dedicated to inform about smart use of plastic and to raise awareness about plastic-related environmental problems. For its features, the fountain is thought to be installed near a beach/at the seaside. As an action to be carried at a project station I would like to organize a public action of coast cleaning using the same kind of mesh that composes the fountain, triggering the curiosity of tourists while collecting the amount of microplastic. Among the possible location mentioned by the Universal Sea, I propose Las Palmas, Gran Canaria (Spain) and Venice (Italy).

The other actions involve a reflection of an economical kind: plastic waste can be a resource able to produce a new value. My idea is to use the microplastic waste for the production of eco-friendly plastic filament for 3D printers. A filament that today is very expensive although is produced with simple and low-cost process while the raw material comes from the work of underpaid poor pickers. This filament can then be used to produce little objects able to spread a message about plastic waste-related issues.

  1. Invisibles: The plastic inside us, by Chris Tyree & Dan Morrison
  2. Plastic fibres found in tap water around the world, study reveals, The Guardian, September 5, 2017,
  3. Guppy Friend
  4. Genetically Modified Bacteria Could Eat Away The World’s Massive Plastic Problem, by Einat Paz-Frankel NoCamels, January 22, 2017.
  5. Stop Microwaste

About me:
I was born in Udine (Italy) in 1983. I studied visual arts at the Academy of Arts in Venice and I specialized at the Academy of Arts of Brera in Milan, where I achieved an MA in product design in 2010. I have exhibited in Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Romania and Lithuania, in independent spaces and recognized institutions such as Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto (Biella), Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa (Venice), Museum of Science (Trento), Nida Art Colony – Vilnius Academy of Arts (Nida). In 2011 I took part in a workshop with Albanian artist Adrian Paci as visiting professor while in 2012 I won a Movin’up grant provided by Italian Ministry of Culture and GAI association and I have been a finalist at the 10th edition of Trieste Contemporanea design contest.