The power of one

Often people think of environmental issues as too big to be able to make a difference as an individual. Artist Peter Smith is on a mission to change this mindset. We meet him in his workshop, where he tells us all about the philosophy behind his work: ‘the power of one’.

The World of Litter

Strangely enough, nobody saw plastic waste as an environmental issue before the year of 2012. But Peter Smith did. To raise awareness on this issue and “to enter the ports of the media like Odysseus once entered the ports of Troy”, he created an artwork in the shape of a globe, made of litter. It was a great success. The ‘World of litter’ generated 10 million media impressions and traveled through other cities in the Netherlands subsequently.

No act is too small to make a difference

For many organisations in the Netherlands, the ‘World of Litter‘ played a role in the process of acknowledging that plastic waste is a big issue for the environment. But that wasn’t enough. To really make a change in people’s mindset, Peter Smith dived into the philosophy behind the problem. “The issue is that many people believe their input is too small to make a difference. To me, the complete opposite is true. Like the flap of a butterfly’s wings, a small act can cause a hurricane of change. That’s why the logo of our foundation KLEAN is a butterfly with somewhat a hurricane inside.”



Minor effort, major effect

Picking up one piece of litter is a minor effort, but if everyone would do it – the effect would be major. Peter Smith even calculated that if 1 out of 4 people in the Netherlands pick up just one piece of litter a day, the litter problem seized to exist. That’s why Peter Smith asked people to pick up just one plastic bottle and send it to his workshop. With this, he received 100.000 littered bottles – a total of 2500 kilos of plastic. Smith will transform this amount of litter into an art piece:

“Again, it will be a Trojan Horse but this time a secret army will be hidden inside. The army consists of children who we will inform before hand on the story behind the statue. We provide them with enough ammunition in the form of arguments why it is important to pick up just one piece of litter every day. The most important argument will be: You do it out of love for your children.The idea is that the artwork will travel though the Netherlands, making a stop in every big city.”


The goal

The artwork will have the shape of a mother breastfeeding her baby to make people aware of the fact that plastic waste ends up in our food chain. The goal of the artwork is to change a mindset that not only causes the plastic waste problem but also affects the entire quality of life on our planet:

“It’s difficult to recapturethe CO2 emissions of your neighbouror to ensure that your neighbour will eat lessmeat. But it’s very easy to clean up one piece of litter that someone else has dropped. If only 25%of the Dutchwould do so, we would save about 250 million Euro – the amount we currently spend on civil servants cleaning up litter. However, the most important thing for me is that people realise that their small actions do have an impact. That’s what I call the Power of One.”

The biggest 3D printed statue in the world

Peter Smith’s art piece won’t be just an art piece, it will be the biggest 3D printed statue in the world. Guess who’s 3D printing this piece? Yep, we are! About a year ago, we started to print the first pieces. The Plastic Madonna is going to be 12 meters long, so we are printing it in separate parts. We started with the feet, pictured above. Once all the pieces are connected, the Plastic Madonna will travel though the Netherlands, stopping in the biggest cities. In every city, Smith will organise lectures and events. Want to be a part of this project? Check the website.