King’s researchers are challenging our understanding of plastics and raising awareness of the geographical reach of environmental pollution through Thames Memory and the Exploration of Future Dust; a series of collaborations and public engagement activities.
With a focus on London’s river Thames, academics and scientists from the university’s Departments of Geography, Chemistry and Informatics are working with artist Maria Arceo on a research project to collect accurate data about, and create new evidence relating to, London’s plastic problem.
Plastic pollution is fast becoming the most ubiquitous environmental and archaeological signature of the current geological age. The proliferation of microplastic fragments and dust in the environment is altering the natural geomorphological composition of the earth’s surface, as well as its river and marine environments.
Maria, the research team, King’s students, members of the public and local schools are currently conducting a ‘whole river clean-up’ operation across all accessible foreshore beaches of the tidal Thames, collecting the plastic waste that will be studied by King’s scientists and eventually used by Maria to create a permanent sculpture to will bear witness to the scale of plastic pollution in the capital.
The research ranges from a study of the microscopic chemical components and bio-chemical properties of the plastics found on the Thames, to the macroscopic accumulations of plastic litter along the river’s foreshore, as well as its distribution patterns and the wider ecological implications.
Maria has a self-confessed obsession with the long-term impacts of plastic debris entering fluvial and marine environments. Her latest line of work is made with these discarded plastic objects collected from several locations on the Thames and various coast lines. Her sculptures stand as visual evidence to the long lasting properties of these discarded and often single-use-intended polymers.