We have a big problem. Our tap water is being contaminated every single day.

The laundry that we do every single day is the cause!

94% of American tap water contains invisible plastic fibers.

Tiny plastic fibers in our clothing – polyester, nylon, spandex to name a few – escape every time we do our laundry, and come right back into the water we drink because they’re too small to be captured by wastewater treatment centers.

Despite that, not even the most eco-friendly washing machine companies have come up with a solution.

It’s time to let these companies know that their consumers (you!) – care and want a solution and we’re hoping that art can be the perfect conversation starter.

Just click on the grey areas below to fill out our form!

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.


Or see on youtube

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.

The worst part was that there was no solution. Very few companies were taking responsibility, and all the consumer could do was support initiatives like the Fiber FilterCora Ball or Guppy Friend.

Despite the many awareness campaigns explaining the problem, none offered a large scale solution.

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.

There’s only one thing left to do. For you to join the movement and challenge them to see which one replies first.

I truly believe that if consumers care, corporations will react and that together, we can come together and make a difference.

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 from Stranger 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.

Photo by Tina Leu

Small flashes were placed inside various monsters to give them the eerie glow that would bring them to life.

We borrowed a small pocket projectorclamped 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.

Now that the entire project is done, only one thing remains for us to do:

Spread the word as far and wide as possible.

Done tweeting and want to take more action?

Learn how you can reduce your impact at www.fiberfilter.org

Media Requests:

  • Feel free to quote and publish the photos in your online publication as long as you are only using them for personal non-commercial use (please credit & link back to the original post).
  • High-rez press images, BTS and more can be found in this dropbox link. Specific Terms of Use can be found here.
  • Commercial requests and rights: suzy@suzyjohnston.com
  • Interview requests: ben@vonwong.com
  • Looking for a video to share on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter? Use this one: https://www.facebook.com/thevonwong/videos/10155458044968515/

Announcements:

  • We’re hunting for volunteers in Dallas, first week in December. If you live in Dallas or plan on being there, join this group!
  • New campaign going live end of December. See the teaser here.

Stranger Things Giveaway #FixToxicLaundry

Credits:

Special thanks to Manfrotto for the stands, clamps and arms, Goodwill DC for lending us some clothing, the Girl Scout Council of the Nations Capital for organizing a clothing drive, Georgetown University for allowing us to borrow their facilities, and Foreground Web for helping us design our challenge web-form!

Gear Used for this Project:

MORE AWESOMENESS:

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  • HYPH8 Studio

    Amazing job, as always! I’ll keep sharing this on all my social media. Thank you for using your awesome talents the way that you do! I wish more people would use their skill set to help the world! <3

  • Scott Kendall

    Fantastic job Ben. Just think how many people there are in the world that release these fibers into our waters. And what the difference would be if just one washing machine company would be able to filter these out. Crazy!!! We have to make a difference.

  • Aryan Rathore

    Real example of true hard work with passion, really appreciate your work

  • Scott Kendall

    I hope you inspire more photographers and creatives to be proactive like yourself

  • Scott Kendall

    Fantastic job Ben. Just think how many people there are in the world that release these fibers into our waters. And what the difference would be if just one washing machine company would be able to filter these out. Crazy!!! We have to make a difference.

  • Working with Ben and the entire crew was a joy. He’s extremely determined, enthusiastic, energetic and obsessive over his work. I am ecstatic to finally see the results and they surpassed my high expectations. I recommend everyone take the chance to work with him, if he happens to be in your area. He’s always up to something crazy and good for the world.

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  • Brian Gurske

    I love how you reach out to show everyone that what we do daily can have big impacts on our future and what can be done to change it.

  • Blendeezer

    Niceeeee

  • Matthieu Viglietti

    Really Nice work ! Hope you’re message will be share a lot. Thank you

  • LeeLeeV

    You never cease to amaze me!

  • Mine Çelik

    As always impressive !

  • Mine Çelik

    I’m excited in your future works, keep going!

  • Miranda McGrath

    This is insane to me that we are all going about our daily lives and have no idea our impact upon not just the environment around us, but to our bodies as well. Specifically from our laundry. Is our water and land not already contaminated enough? We need a solution.

  • Henry Oviedo

    Getting the word out:)

  • Kellie

    You’re work is always inspiring, creative and colourful. Even when you’re saving our environment you never fail to tell the story with a photo

  • Cindy Charles

    Thank you for all that you do Ben, you’re raising awareness on so many issues in an interesting way.

  • LeeLeeV

    I cant wait to work with you on a project!

  • Pedro Fernández

    I’ve followed you since forever and I really like the kind of human being you’ve just became. No need to say I love your work, of course.
    Thanks for being on the bright side xx

  • Nicolai Valdivieso-Sinyakov

    Big fan of your work VonWong, Keep up the social justice creative work!

  • MIkaela

    Stunning, chilling, thought provoking, and COOL! I love your work and the campaigns you stand behind

  • Cyril Franz

    Amazing work, Ben! Happy Birthday! Now we wait for their move. #FixToxicLaundry

  • Staniel

    Very nice! BTW it seems you have forgotten to mention radio flash trigger Yongnuo 560TX which can be seen at least on 2 BTS shots (one of them is 360° photo; another one in BTS in DropBox picture #8).

  • Mylene L. Sagrado

    You’re superb and always have a purpose on your project, very great job lodi (idol)

  • Scott Kendall

    Ahhh man, I would love to win one of your prints Ben.

  • Tschi Na

    I love your work and would be delighted to win one of your prints! I’d be even happier if a company actually responded to this.

    Just letting you know, your link from YouTube to this blog entry is faulty. Not hard to find either way, just thought you might want to know.

  • Jay

    Awesome work as always!! Keep it up sir 🙂

  • Jackie Núñez de Villavicencio

    There is a need to also let everyone know that the microfibers are found in bottled drinking water as well. Industry is using this microfibers study for their gain to sell more bottled water. Please make this fact more prevalent in your messaging to the public. Evian is naive spelled backwards and they are selling us our tap water back to us in polluting plastic bottles at a huge mark up, and consumers are buying more of it out of fear. This messaging highlighting tap water and omitting and/or downplaying the fact that microfibers are found in bottled water (which is filtered tap water sold back us) is stoking that fear, and leading to even more single use plastic pollution.

  • Midori

    Another amazing project to bring awareness to us, our health and what’s going on in the world around us. I think the anger fish headed monster is probably myy favorite shot. I’d still like very much to work with you! Keep up the fantastic and inspiring work! 🙂

  • Tunay Hasan

    Dont forget to call me when you are in Belgium 😉

  • Christopher Free

    Von Wong, FTW! Solid work, dude. As always, this is impressive stuff.

  • justin smidt

    Your work inspires me to bring my own ideas to life.

  • Melissa Zuidema

    This is a really good concept! Love it!!