I first learned about toxic laundry at a retreat hosted by the National Academy of Sciences. Professor Slakey, a lecturer from Georgetown University talked about a team of young students he was mentoring that were so bothered by what they had learned that they designed a Fiber Filter capable of capturing invisible pieces of plastic in our water. I was blown away that kids were trying to solve a global problem that I hadn’t even heard about and offered to help them raise awareness for the issue.
A few conversations later, I hopped onto a plane to DC to try and tackle this newly discovered threat.
While in DC, I soaked in more sobering facts from the students.
I learned that by 2025, the world’s synthetic fiber production will double – so too will the amount of microfibers in our water supply. And it’s not just about avoiding tap water… it’s also starting to infiltrate our salt and beer.
Convincing wastewater treatment centers around the country seemed too daunting, government legislation would take forever and controlling all synthetic fiber manufacturing was completely unrealistic.
What seemed realistic though was challenging environmentally conscious corporations positioned to make a difference. All we had to do was attract their attention and ask them to #FixToxicLaundry.
The project started off extremely simple.
We first started with tentacles that were designed by Lee Deslisle, a local volunteer with a background in costume design. They were made out of recycled cardboard, wire and fishing line. They were then dressed up in used clothing supplied by Goodwill DC and an independent clothing drive organized by Carrie, one of our volunteers. The structures were supported with Avenger C-stands and Manfrotto Flex Arms.
Over the course of ten days, we transformed what used to be a biology lab into a full-fledged monster assembly line. The three students, (Left to right), Jaime, Lola and Carter, juggled finals, their fiber filter research and our photoshoot to help bring the project to life.
After many days of trial, error and iteration our final designs started to emerge with inspirations drawn from the angler fish (designed by Lola), the creepy tendrils fromStranger Things, and some simple snakes.
The sets took hours to design as we had to line up the tentacles perfectly in the camera so that they would look perfect.Small flashes were placed inside various monsters to give them the eerie glow that would bring them to life.
We borrowed a small pocket projector, clamped it to the ceiling and projected the words BEWARE onto the floor so that the warning would be more obvious to the corporations we were challenging.Cotton balls were dipped in red food coloring, torn up and glued to wire created the creepy veins that we needed.And in a lovely twist of events, Zaida and Kinley who came to model the unsuspecting victims, were the daughters of Professor Slakey – the person who introduced me to the whole project in the first place.
Over the course of the week, over 30 volunteers came and volunteered day and night to bring this project to life.
I truly believe that if consumers care, corporations will react and that together, we can come together and make a difference.
Wong is notorious for documenting his intrepid adventures and epic photography. His hyper-realistic art style captures the hearts and minds of viewers in a fusion of special effects and innovative concepts specifically designed to go viral and drive conversation. Benjamin's background in engineering gives him a unique edge for creative problem solving, where technical challenges become friendly competition. Fueled by his passion to connect with people, he has an affinity for sharing engaging stories in novel ways. He is currently focused on conservation and social impact projects.
by Ben Vonwong