In mid-2018, Starbucks announced plans to phase out plastic straws from its more than 28,000 stores worldwide by 2020. While this is a huge step forward in the fight against plastic contamination, establishments worldwide still offer straws and have no intention of stopping anytime soon.

Benjamin Von Wong, a visual engineer known for creating expressive art inspired by environmental and societal issues, manifested “The Parting of the Plastic Sea,” an installation comprised of 168,000 plastic straws. The piece is a commentary on how the ignorant bliss of one human accepting the use of a plastic straw will only fuel this environmental tragedy. You can see a behind-the-scenes video showing its creation from concept to reality:

“I wanted to encourage people to turn down their next straw by creating a “strawpocalypse.” – Benjamin Von Wong

With the help of Zero Waste Saigon and Starbucks Vietnam, Von Wong was able to collect enough straws over a 6 month period of time to begin construction of his 10ft. high structure. After two weeks of organizing and cleaning the straws, the conceptualization of the sea started to become a close reality when Von Wong designated “green/blue/black straws for the base of the wave, white for the froth on top, orange/yellow for the sand and all other transparent ones as transition points in the structure”.

“We arranged the straws like strokes of a paintbrush, trying our best to follow the curves of the lights and waves.” – Benjamin Von Wong

While the installation predominantly used straws, the goal is to open people’s eyes to “the plastic epidemic threatening the oceans we rely on.” To further emphasize this point, Von Wong implemented plastic bags, which helped to diffuse the LED lighting structure representing the sun.

“If things don’t change by the year 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in the sea. While statistics like that can appear daunting and impossible to fight against, it all starts with small simple actions.” – Benjamin Von Wong

“The Parting of the Plastic Sea”

To see more from this project, check out Benjamin Von Wong’s blog post here. You can also catch more of his work on his Website and Instagram.