Plastic is an incredible material. The big problem with it is how we are using it and discarding it in nature. It was with this idea in mind that The Plastic Museum was created: to show the vital role that plastic plays in our lives and the possibilities that its reuse and recycling offer. Opened in Madrid on May 8, it not only contains plastic but was built entirely from this material. Through the artifacts displayed inside, including objects for health care, communication, construction, food, and sustainable mobility, the visitor will learn about the essential functions that plastic provides us when used correctly.
“This museum highlights the importance of using plastic and its contribution to protecting the environment at all stages: ecodesign, use, reuse and recycling,” says Alicia Martín, spokesperson for EsPlásticos, a platform that brings together the various agents of the plastic sector in Spain. "It also shows what your contribution is in combating climate change by reducing energy consumption and CO2 emissions", she adds.
We talk a lot about the enormous harm that plastic has brought to the environment. But there are many cases in which this material has reduced the excessive expenditure of energy. In this article by Alberto Cerri, some pros and cons of this controversial material are revealed, many of them more present in our lives than we might imagine. “One example is the automobile industry. Old cars had a lot of heavy metallic equipment. With the spread of plastic materials, including into the auto parts market, plastic helped compose new automobiles. As a result, cars became lighter and the cost of fuel decreased significantly, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.” The author also mentions other products such as plastic tarps used in landfills to avoid the contamination of groundwater, plastic as thermal insulation in certain materials to reduce energy consumption, and plastic films that provide better yields in certain types of agricultural crops, among others.
Plastic is a very complete product, which also becomes a problem. Its durability and mechanical resistance against fungi and bacteria make its lifespan almost infinite, making decomposition difficult. In addition, it is a material that is difficult to compact and generates a large volume of waste, which makes when deposited in the environment makes it difficult to decompose other organic materials. When plastic falls into the oceans, it breaks down into small plastic particles and microplastics, which end up interfering in the food chain. Rethinking single-use plastic (bags, disposable cups, straws, etc.) is essential and has already been implemented in many places. But thinking about the destination of the material after disposal is just as important.
On May 17, World Recycling Day, the structure of the Plastic Museum was dismantled and all of its parts will be reused and recycled, conveying the importance of the gesture of recycling. Walls, ceilings, and floors will be recycled in order to transform them into different objects and give them a new life.
The Museum was designed by the architectural studio Delavegacanolasso, specializing in prefabricated modular architecture and the use of plastic elements for the design and construction of structures and furniture. With an area of 73.5 m2, it is built with various plastic materials, such as polyethylene, methacrylate, polycarbonate, and PVC. It features a modern and avant-garde design, and combines natural and artificial light while playing with different plastic materials. Throughout its three rooms, the Museum presents itself as a transformative space, which aims to reform the public's inaccurate perception of plastic and demonstrate how, when treated correctly, it can be a recyclable and sustainable material. In addition, it shows how this material is essential and how it has transformed sectors such as health, food, construction, and transportation, among others. Finally, the museum pursues the goal of remedying plastic misuse by demonstrating responsible practices and greater environmental awareness.
For those who cannot personally visit the museum, the Plastic Museum has made available on its website a virtual tour of all the rooms and artifacts in the museum.