The woman who turns Jordan’s plastic waste into eye-catching art

Artist Maria Nissan, who lives in Jordan, has a mission: to rid the world of single-use plastics and raise awareness of the environmental scourge through eye-catching art.

One of his best-known murals adorns the side of a building in the capital Amman, a giant work made up of more than 2,000 plastic bottles, nearly 1,000 shopping bags and more than 150 water pipes. shisha.

A US citizen of Iraqi descent, Nissan, 35, said she fell in love with Amman on her first visit three years ago, but also felt “frustration and anger” at the heaps of rubbish on the streets and in areas of natural beauty.

Plastic art is a concrete and powerful way to raise concerns about environmental issues that affect Jordanians

“Despite the beauty of the city, walking its streets can be a trip filled with all kinds of trash.

“My eyes can’t take their eyes off the abundance of shiny plastic bags, glass bottles, soda cans, candy bar wrappers,” said Nissan, who sometimes wears a dress made from a sturdy blue Ikea bag.

Trained in painting and drawing in the United States and Italy, Nissan decided to collect and reuse waste to create art – often collages themed around women’s faces, flowers and oriental motifs.

Her house, where she has a rooftop workspace under a large awning, is filled with every type of plastic object imaginable, from razors and toothbrushes to lighters, pens and plastic spoons.

“Plastic art is a concrete and powerful way to raise concerns about environmental issues that affect Jordanians, their children, their communities and the kingdom’s natural environments,” she said.

“Everybody’s Problem”

“A bottle thrown into a valley will take up to 450 years to decompose,” Nissan said, noting the effect is “microplastics polluting soil, water and wildlife.”

“Because plastics litter fields and water indiscriminately, livestock and fish indirectly feed on pieces of plastic that we will eventually find on our plates.”

Nissan’s work has been exhibited in 12 exhibitions in Jordan as well as Italy and Greece, and featured on her Instagram channel @marianissanart, all with the aim of changing mindsets and habits.

Jordanians use three billion plastic bags each year, part of the country’s annual solid waste load of 2.2 million tonnes, of which only 7% is recycled, according to the United Nations Development Programme.

Nissan is urging people to avoid buying plastic products and shopping with reusable bags, and is also pushing for a tax on single-use plastics.

“The consequences of single-use plastic pollution are often delayed, so it’s hard to make people feel responsible for their own actions,” she said.

“Plastic comes back to us somehow… It’s nobody’s responsibility until it becomes everybody’s problem.”

Updated: May 29, 2022, 09:49

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Bryce K. Locke