French artist Stephanie Kilgast transforms recyclable trash, such as plastic bottles and soda cans, into sculptures titled From Trash to Art. Here, recyclable trash has been repurposed as habitats for an array of land and water animals. In her sculptures, corals grow out of plastic bottles for fish to live in, and mushrooms grow out of milk jugs for insects to roam in.

Kilgast has shared that her work reflects the current environmental climate that is filled with anxiety as climate change, the energy crisis and rampant pollution plague the globe. However, in these circumstances, she wishes to highlight that there is still hope and that “Nature is resilient and growing back, more beautiful than ever.” Hence, her works are symbols of hope for a better environmental future, one where the waste management is controlled, and nature has found ways to persist. This makes her artworks relevant to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of Responsible Consumption and Production, Life on Land and Life Below Water.

Fire Coral by Stephanie Kilgast. Image courtesy of Stephanie Kilgast’s website.

Sights, as portrayed in Kilgast’s sculptures, are actually already happening across the globe. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History has shared that birds and nesting mammals such as squirrels and opossums have been observed to incorporate plastic materials into their nests. This means using everything from plastic bottles to plastic bags, straws, strings and even ropes as they find that they resemble moss, twigs and even leaves that would have naturally been used to make their nests. One expert cited by the institution has even found the nest of a Baltimore Oreole, a small bright orange bird found in North America, has made its nest entirely out of fishing line. Another expert has also found 386 instances of hermit crabs using discarded plastic caps and coffee pods as artificial shells.

Chemical Candy (Dragonfly) by Stephanie Kilgast. Image courtesy of Stephanie Kilgast’s website.

This behaviour may seem like nature’s way of helping humans recycle their synthetic wastes. However, as environmental journalist Adetokunbo Abiola has reported, scientists are yet to understand the long-term impact this behaviour would have. Current trends have only made them speculate that, in the long run, this behaviour might bring nothing but deterioration. When used as nests or shells, plastic tends to disrupt these animals’ development, causing further problems for the ecological cycle. It is already killing 569,000 hermit crabs and one million birds each year.

Trio Infernal by Stephanie Kilgast. Image courtesy of Stephanie Kilgast’s website.

This means that Kilgast’s From Trash to Art represents a less hopeful reality at the moment. They are grim reminders of the effects that recyclable litter has had on land and water animals. Scientists do believe, in the same way that Kilgast believes, that somewhere down the line, nature will find a way to coexist and make use of consumerist waste. Today, this is still a distant reality, more akin to soothing fiction than science.

Strawberry Milk by Stephanie Kilgast. Image courtesy of Stephanie Kilgast’s website.

Find out more about Stephanie Kilgast’s From Trash to Art series and their other pieces by checking their Instagram on @petitplat.

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