Plastic Bag Art

Velcr0, via Flickr

Plastic bags create waste and pollution in countries around the world. Liz Waid and Joshua Leo look at two groups creating art from this waste.


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Joshua Leo.

Voice 2

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

The Gare Saint Lazare in Paris, France is one of the busiest train stations in Europe. It is usually full of people. But in May, 2012 something different filled the middle of the station. People entering the station were shocked. Hanging from the ceiling was a huge piece of art. It was nearly 20 metres tall! And it was made of colourful plastic bags. The art piece used more than 25,000 plastic bags.

Voice 2 

Pascale Marthine Tayou is an artist from Cameroon. He designed this huge art piece made of plastic bags. Tayou wanted to get the attention of people entering the train station. He wanted people to think about using plastic bags. The plastic bags represented waste. Tayou thinks people buy and throw away too many things. Many people agree with him. Instead of throwing plastic bags away they try to find ways to reuse them. Today’s Spotlight is on making something useful and beautiful with old plastic bags.

Voice 1 

Plastic is made from natural gases and petroleum - a thick oil that people remove from the earth. In the 1960s, scientists discovered how to make very light and thin bags from plastic. Plastic bags are strong and light. They can safely contain things that are wet or dirty. Plastic seemed like a good material to carry everything from meat and fruit to cloth and paper. By the 1980s, people all over the world were using plastic bags.

Voice 2 

People used these plastic bags once and then threw them away. Using plastic bags this way causes many problems. Factories that produce plastic use a lot of resources and energy. But the largest problem with plastic bags is what happens after people throw them away.

Voice 1

Traditionally, people carried things in bags made of natural materials. They would wrap things in leaves from trees. Or people used cloth or even long grass to make containers. When these containers became old, people could throw them away. The natural materials would break down into the soil. Grass and leaves do not cause waste and pollution. But plastic does not break down into soil. A plastic bag will not break down for hundreds of years!

Voice 2 

As people produce more plastic, this has become a large problem around the world. People use so many plastic bags that they pollute the environment. Plastic bags block pipes where water should flow. They cover areas of land and sea. They look dirty. Sometimes they carry dangerous germs and bacteria from human waste. But more than that, they are dangerous to birds and animals. Sometimes animals try to eat them. But plastic does not break down in the stomach of an animal either. Animals that eat plastic usually die.

Voice 1 

People are trying to find solutions for this problem of too many plastic bags. In some countries shops do not give people plastic bags for free. Shoppers now have to pay extra money to buy a plastic bag. Other governments have tried to solve the problem by banning plastic bags. For example, in 2012 the Environmental Agency in Cameroon tried to stop stores from using plastic bags. But this ban did not work. It was too difficult for the government to control. People continue to use plastic bags in Cameroon and in most other countries around the world.

Voice 2 

Some people are making individual or group efforts to reduce the use of plastic bags. Some people refuse to use plastic bags. They carry their things in cloth bags. These bags can be used many times without breaking. In some situations people must use plastic bags. Then they try to reuse them before throwing them away.

Voice 1 

In Cameroon, a group of women saw the problem of plastic bags. They decided to do something about it. They formed a group called FAREM. The members collect used plastic bags. Then they boil them and use special soap to clean them. Marceline Fotso is the president of FAREM. She explained to the news network MSN:

Voice 3 

“We treat the plastic bags. We have to clean them so that no one catches any diseases from them. We want to be totally sure that all the germs are dead!”

Voice 2 

When the bags are clean, the women dry them. They use them to make things for people to use or wear. The women cut the bags into long thin strips. They weave the strips together to make a strong kind of plastic cloth. They use this cloth to make new products such as purses and wallets for carrying money. They also make beautiful jewellery such as earrings for people to hang from their ears.

Voice 1 

Anne Marie Makollo is a FAREM member. She is very proud of the things that the group makes. She holds up a bright green plastic wallet as she tells MSN:

Voice 4

“All these things are made out of plastic bags. We have gathered them from stores that sell fish, bread, and food. We also take them from the dustbins in order to recycle them.”

Voice 2 

The women sell the plastic products at markets. They also take orders from people. Many people are interested in buying a product that looks nice. They are even more excited about using something that is helping to clean up the environment. Cleaning up Cameroon is the main aim of FAREM. Makollo explains:

Voice 4 

“We are doing it because we do not want to see the plastic bags filling the streets. We are recycling the bags. We turn them into useful things in order to protect the environment.”

Voice 1 

Carrying bags and wearing jewellery made from old plastic bags is better for the environment. It is a way to make something useful out of garbage! It is also a way to make art out of plastic bags - like Pascale Marthine Tayou did at Gare Saint Lazare. The artist and the women at FAREM have a similar hope for the world. They hope that people will think carefully about the materials that they use. And they hope that people will take care of their environment - especially when it comes to plastic bags.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Rena Dam. The producer was Mark Drenth. The voices you heard were from the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘Plastic Bag Art.’

Voice 1 

You can also leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at You can also find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!


Do you use plastic bags?


Avatar Spotlight
said on October 09, 2013

We must take good care of our earth.No more pollution.Before you go out for shopping,do not forget to take a cloth bag.It is a good way for helping our earth to reduce rubbish.Plastic bags are hard to break down.It may take several hundred years.Be a smart guy,ok?Let’s do it step by step from now on.Our earth will become more and more beautiful and cleaner.Love our earth more.

Avatar Spotlight
said on October 10, 2013

A recyclable story which can spotlight to many polluted situation on our plant Earth.

Avatar Spotlight
said on October 12, 2013

Recycling and reusing the plastic bags is a great solution for these problems with the enormous amount of waste. All of us must take care of cleaning our environment reducing the pollution not only in the streets of the cities but mainly in the nature too. In my country, the actions of cleaning the environment from rabbish are organized regularly, especially in spring. Particularly the young people take part in this doing.

Avatar Spotlight
said on October 29, 2014

that is the best way for saving energy, environment and make higher life’s value!

natasoul's avatar
said on November 05, 2014

Hello, I have never heard that from plastic bags can make things for people to use or wear, do new products such as purses and wallets and even did not think that they are doing beautiful earrings. I would blike to have some is seems to me it is a great way to save our environment and make our life cleaner.In spring we always doing the actions of clearning our streets,parks from rabbish. and i am very happy to see a lot of young people who take part in this .If we learn how correct recycle and reuse the plastic bags we will be able to have light future without carbage. Thanks dear Spotlight)))))))

Avatar Spotlight
said on July 05, 2015

Let’s make a more beatutiful environment together.My solution is trying to recycle everything can be.

SultanMedico's avatar
said on July 06, 2015

We are drowning in plastic!
Plastic bags are one of the most visible signs of the pollution problem that extends across our planet.
Do Plastic Bag Bans Work?
It seems nearly impossible to escape plastic in our every day lives, doesn’t it? We should focus on recycling the bag.
We should not ban plastic bags to solve the problem?

jradio's avatar
said on July 06, 2015

yes but a part from now i have to use natural things instead of

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on February 21, 2017

Accully I’m always using the Plastic Bags.
I think that the solution for this problem is using the paper bags.
G-d bless you