Virtual Museum of Plastic Waste: A Look at the Durability of Our Garbage

Enzo Suma, a naturalist from Puglia, Italy, has created a virtual museum called Archeoplastica that displays 500 unique pieces of plastic waste recovered from the shores of Italy. The purpose of the museum is to demonstrate the durability of plastic in the environment and the impact it has on the planet. Suma, who studied environmental science at the University of Venice, uses his photographic skills to create digital three-dimensional models of each plastic object, similar to how museums document ancient Greek and Roman vases. Sixty of these models can now be viewed in the virtual Archeoplastica museum, which also features vintage print and television ads.

The oldest object in the collection is a bottle cap from 1958, stamped with the logo “Moplen,” the patented polymer whose introduction marked the beginning of the plastic age. Its inventor, Italian chemical engineer Giulio Natta, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1963. Dating the plastic objects can be a challenge, as they are often faded by exposure to sunlight or encrusted with barnacles. Suma uses a variety of methods, including research on the internet and help from his 300,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram, to identify the age of each object.

Suma also exhibits selected pieces from the Archeoplastica collection at local schools around his hometown of Ostuni. He hopes that by displaying the plastic objects, he can raise awareness about the negative impact of plastic waste on the environment and inspire people to reduce their consumption of single-use plastics.

“We were all told in school that plastic can last for 500 years,” says Suma. “But to see a product you may have used 30, 40, or 50 years ago with your own eyes, still completely intact, that’s different. It has an emotional impact.” Suma’s collection of plastic waste serves as a reminder of the long-lasting consequences of our actions and the importance of reducing plastic pollution. 

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