Making art while also making waste just doesn’t sit right with me. I believe there should be little if any environmental downside to our creative expressions. Becoming a zero-waste artist is still a VERY long journey for me but I’ve committed to it and have come across one particular art studio practice, a method of disposing of my acrylic paint, that you may want to adopt if you feel the same way. I’m calling it the artist ecobrick.
First, what is an Ecobrick
Before we go on, I must say, I didn’t come up with the ecobrick idea. The concept has been around for several years already championed by an organisation called the EcoBrick Exchange. This is a specific application for it and it makes for an amazing practice for any eco-conscious artist or creative.
An ecobrick is a repurposed 2L plastic bottle, that once contained milk or some sort of beverage. The empty bottle is filled with compressed non-recyclables like small scraps of plastic, cellophane or clingwrap, wrappers or packets for chips or sweets and such like.
Once the bottle is as full as can be – it usually weighs about 600g – the cap is screwed on and it is then repurposed in its entirety as a brick for building structures.
The idea behind the ecobrick is that it alleviates pressure from landfills as well as making sure that bits of environmentally harmful plastics don’t end up in the biosphere.
The bricks are mainly used to build structures like play areas for kids, boundary walls, raised beds for gardening and temporary structures as well as development centres and schools within township communities that support the communities living there.
Here’s the problem that led to my making Artist Ecobricks
Now that you know what an ecobrick is, let me share how I came to making Artist Ecobricks.
I’ve painted in many mediums and have found with miniatures, I enjoy painting in acrylic paint most. Acrylic paint is essentially pigment suspended in a polymer emulsion. They’re water-soluble but become water-resistant when dry, which means they’re essentially a tinted plastic when dry.
The problem is not the final painting, because hopefully you never throw the artwork away.
The big shitty problem is the paint palette. You see, because acrylic paint isn’t water-soluble like water paints, the dried paints can’t be washed off of a plastic or wooden artist palette. Most of my life, in any art setting, be that at school or in art classes, acrylic artists are instructed to use carboard or polystyrene trays that fruit and veg come in as their palette and then when dry, just toss it away. Recycling is already a hefty process. Add a thick goopy layer of water insolvent polymer to it and you’re bound to end up with an environmental shit storm.
The definition of an Artist Ecobrick
An Artist Ecobrick is a plastic bottle that that lives in your art studio or creative space and is stuffed full of all the tiny waste particles and acrylic paint peels from art palettes that come about as a result of your creative process.
The unexpected joy that comes from disposing of your acrylic paint in this manner
Not only are you keeping your creative waste out of the environment but by containing it in the brick you are simultaneously creating something new with something you once would have discarded mindlessly. There’s something quite humbling of watching it all amass inside your brick, knowing that you’re being as responsible as you currently know how to be while being creative.
What kind of crap should you put in your Artist ecobrick
These are the kinds of things that end up in my Artist ecobrick but I’m sure it would serve to contain much more creative waste.
- Acrylic paint – because when it dries it is essentially a plastic of sorts
- Dried glue – also becomes a plastic polymer
- Small scraps of cut off fabric or canvas trimmings (if you’re not reusing these for stuffing pillows say)
- Small foam shavings
- Old sandpaper
- Tiny glue tubes
What to do with a full ecobrick?
I’m still filling the very same ecobrick I started at the beginning of my 365challenge. And I’m already forming ideas of where I hope my artist ecobricks will live one day.
Full ecobricks can be dropped off at many drop-off sites around the country where your creative waste will be put to use making something useful with positive impact.
I hope this article inspires you to start ecobricking in your studio. If you’re still with me way down here, thank you for taking the time to read this far. I appreciate the time you’ve given this article. Please share it with any other artists who you think would benefit from an eco practice to accompany their creative practice.