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Plastic Free July: Sydney street artist taking companies’ plastic use head-on

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Australian street artist Patrick Hunter is using his powerful and confronting beachside artworks to try to pressure large companies to stop using plastic packaging.

The 27 year old from Sydney’s Northern Beaches, who goes by the name Ink Hunter, has created large street artworks around Australia’s beaches, to bring attention to plastic consumption and pollution.

More details about the street artists cause in the video above

Hunter’s project, Plastic Free Beaches – a community-based program driven on social media – coincides with Plastic Free July, currently underway.

However, where movements like Plastic Free July focus on individuals’ use of plastic, Plastic Free Beaches is aimed at stopping the abundance of plastic at the source – large food and drink companies.

In today’s society, it is extremely hard not to use plastic in everyday life and can often feel as though you are fighting a losing battle, Hunter says.

Plastic Free Beaches artwork at North Narrabeen in Sydney. Credit: Supplied

“It’s really hard for people who are time poor, especially in today’s fast-paced society, to stop using single-use plastic,” the artist says.

“It’s too much of a mammoth task to do it and it shouldn’t be that way.

“Imagine trying to cut out plastic for a day – it’s almost impossible.”

Hunter wants companies to be held accountable for the “obscene” amount of plastic packaging used for food and drink products.

Hunter will continue to put up Plastic Free Beaches artwork across Sydney the next month.
Hunter will continue to put up Plastic Free Beaches artwork across Sydney the next month. Credit: Supplied

“The big thing is to turn the tap off at the source,” Hunter says.

“It’s about putting pressure on these corporations by letting them know we care about our environment.

“They don’t give a s***. They seem more interested in their profit margins.

Patrick Hunter is a 27-year-old street artist from Sydney.
Patrick Hunter is a 27-year-old street artist from Sydney. Credit: Supplied

“If we can get together and get as many people sharing the concept, it will show the companies that we want to look after our planet.”

The idea began after Hunter saw the amount of rubbish littered on his beloved Northern Beaches while volunteering his time to help community groups clean garbage off the beaches.

“We went on to the beaches and were using sieves to get rid of microplastics,” he says.

Stock image of plastic littered on a beach.
Stock image of plastic littered on a beach. Credit: Getty Images

“It was so heartbreaking to see the obscene amount of plastic that washes up and is left there.”

Hunter believes that finding alternative packaging is key to having less debris wash up on Australian shores.

Plastic Free Beaches artwork in Sydney.
Plastic Free Beaches artwork in Sydney. Credit: Supplied

“The more support the better, the more pressure on these companies, the higher the likelihood of them being able to find alternative packaging sources,” the Sydney artist says.

Ocean-based artwork

The artworks in the Plastic Free Beaches project are all based on subjects around consumerism, ocean wildlife and pollution.

Created on paper pasted on to walls and buildings around beaches, some are of fish skeletons with their mouths covered in plastic, bodies filled with plastic and bodies the shape of plastic containers.

Plastic Free Beaches artworks on the toilet block at Mona Vale Beach in Sydney.
Plastic Free Beaches artworks on the toilet block at Mona Vale Beach in Sydney. Credit: Supplied

Another striking piece in the collection is of a whale leaping out of a coffee cup with its mouth covered by the lid.

Hunter’s artworks also focus on fast-food restaurants, whose wrappers and containers can be found littered on beaches.

Hunter has had overwhelming support from other Sydney artists who have helped him put up the artworks.
Hunter has had overwhelming support from other Sydney artists who have helped him put up the artworks. Credit: Supplied

“The colour scheme I use is the same that fast-food chains use for branding,” Hunter says.

“The fast-food colour scheme is red and blue, which is scientifically proven to make people want to consume food.

“More food means more packaging waste.”

Hunter wants people around Australia to get on board and help spread the Plastic Free Beaches message.

He is providing access to his artworks on Google drive to allow members of the public to print off copies and paste them up as well.

Local support

Community reception of the Plastic Free Beaches artwork has been so enthusiastic that the movement has gained nationwide popularity.

Promotional videos on Hunter’s Instagram have drawn tens of thousands of viewers, while outdoor advertising company, oOh!media, is backing the program.

The company has donated 25 large format digital billboards and 400 digital street panels (including bus stops) across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, which will house Hunter’s artworks for all of July.

Plastic Free Beaches artwork on a bus stop in South Australia.
Plastic Free Beaches artwork on a bus stop in South Australia. Credit: oOh! Media

Plastic Free Beaches has also gained political support, with Hunter’s local MP, Jason Falinski, the Federal Member for Mackellar, backing the project.

“It is an excellent project,” Falinski says.

“The choice of colours and his reasoning for them as well as the images themselves, all entice the viewer to consider the effect their plastic waste can have.

One of Hunter's artworks on an oOh!media Billboard.
One of Hunter’s artworks on an oOh!media Billboard. Credit: Supplied

“Australians create around 67 million tonnes of waste each year. This needs to change.

“I want to see less waste going to landfill and ending up in oceans, and more being reused and recycled.”

Falinski also believes it’s not just about businesses, and that individuals need to be more accountable for reducing plastic waste.

“If Australian households had done half as much as many Australian businesses have done, our problems would be at least 50 per cent less,” he says.

“We need to stop blaming others and start taking control, being accountable and responsible, and let me assure you when that happens, the remaining corporate hold outs will very quickly fall into line.”

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