168,000 used straws were artfully repurposed into two crashing waves of careless decisions

168,000 used straws were artfully repurposed into two crashing waves of careless decisions

every straw in these photographs, all 168,000, could have been purchased for less than $20 USD on alibaba.com, but the partners and volunteers who put these waves together didn’t take the easy way out. someone’s mouth touched all of these at one point. they were then found on the streets or in cans or bags and collected by a non profit in vietnam called zero waste saigon for six months. then von wong got on board. then starbucks. now, a sun of LED panels has risen over an 8 X 3 kilogram sea, in the atrium of the estella place mall in ho chi minh city, where onlookers are taking photos and superhero-volunteers are high-five’ing behind the seas.

all images courtesy of von wong


this isn’t von wong’s first time taking thousands of objects and photographing them in a way that makes us feel the weight of numbers — actually, it isn’t his first time this month. in december 2018, VW created the world’s tallest closet, hanging 3,000 articles of clothing over the average-consumer’s head. earlier in 2018, he tackled e-waste. some people throw statistics around in conversations to prove they are aware, while von puts in intense work to visualize them in beautiful ways, so that others might become more aware too. awareness isn’t a state of mind. it’s an action. it’s cleaning dirty straws for months when 100,000 could have been purchased online in 10 seconds.



each straw we use — for 10 minutes or 10 seconds — will likely float in oceans for 450 years. by 2050, there’s estimated to be more plastic in the sea than fish. these statistics and others like them are sewn together in a spoken word story by steve connell in the video above, ‘the last straw.’



‘every day, dozens of new volunteers streamed in to give thousands of discarded straws a second life,’ von says on his blog. groups of volunteers split up to tackle different patterns to place on the wave, early volunteers showing newcomers where to place what. it was a quick turn around of plastic bagging, light-stringing and straw adhering. you can see these volunteers and their assembly lines of joy below — they sorted straws by color, crescendoing them from straw-sand to white straw-froth. they fold in jaggedly, foaming above the passers-through as yellow mistakes crunch carelessly beneath their feet. 


‘the plastic problem is either out of sight, out of mind – or so omnipresent that it becomes invisible,’ according to von wong, ‘I wanted to use art to tackle both angles – by creating something beautiful and unique out of an environmental tragedy.’ 



the creators of this installation have repurposed hundreds of thousands of lazy seconds into hundreds of thousand of meticulously beautiful ones. but each straw here is still virtually impossible to recycle. if you are a museum or entity who knows of a potential forever-home for #strawpocalypse, contact the creators at zero waste saigon, or von — the guy taking a selfie below.



project info:

installation art: von wong and zero waste saigon

sponsor: starbucks vietnam

hosted by: keppel land

video: fox – creative and visuals

spoken word performance (video): steve connell

BTS photography: anna tenne

technical build consultants: nick moserstefan suknjajafosha zyong

set builder: trịnh thiên tân

LED technician: thành huỳnh

production support: don ledave lemke

special thanks to: the german international school, british international school and american international school for supporting our cleanup effort

volunteers: quinn tran, leanne lim, tam binh, mong binh, tuy gentry buckner, gia kang, thanh duy, ti hon, nguyen quoc dung, bùi phương nhật, leo pukachi, julia mesner burdge, michael burdge, loan joy, huyền kara, đoàn linh chi, angeli castillo, nguyễn ngọc huân, dương bội linh, matthew james morris

models: sebastian burdge, elijia ken, nguyen thuy duong (TyhD)

  • I love this movement, and I’m doing all I can to avoid straws, but I’m baffled by the takeaway that “Each straw we use… will likely float in oceans for 450 years.” I live in Colorado. How is any straw going to end up in the ocean, 1,000 miles away?” It’ll end up in a local landfill, which is also NOT GOOD, but the ocean connection makes no sense to me.

    Scott says:

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

comments policy
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

art news

keep up with our daily and weekly stories
502,634 subscribers
- see sample
- see sample