Spanish artist, Alvaro Catalán de Ocón has found a way to address the growing mounds of plastic bottle refuse by turning them into something beautiful and functional. From 2011-12, Catalán de Ocón developed the PET Lamp Project which employes Colombian weavers from the Cauca region to create lamp shades using plastic bottles retrieved from the Amazon. With eventual support of Coca Cola, the project has garnered a lot of attention in both social and design realms. The workers are paid a fair trade wage to retrieve the refuse, then they use traditional materials and techniques to design vibrant, voluminous and decorative shades for the European market.
Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design, History, Material Culture has a wonderful exhibition Waterweavers: The River in Contemporary Colombian Visual and Material Culture
through August 10, 2014.