Acid Raincoat: A Future Heirloom

︎ Garment
︎ Produced at MIT under the supervision of Azra Aksamija
︎ Spring 2023

Inheritance is a complex concept. It is a symbol of legacy, a tangible representation of the past, and a bridge between the present and the future. While we typically associate inheritance with the practice of passing down cherished possessions between generations, the notion of inheritance is not limited to material objects. We also inherit things with little physical or sentimental value, things that we are not always conscious of, things that are ignored or overlooked, things like plastic waste. Plastic waste has become ubiquitous in our lives, so much so that it has now become and unintentional heirloom. Every day, we participate in this newly bred intergenerational practice, generating tons of plastic waste that eventually finds its way into landfills, oceans, and other natural ecosystems. Not only have we have become more comfortable throwing things away, but we have also grown accustomed to leaving things behind. Waste does not disappear; it remains in landfills for nearly 500 years, polluting the planet and causing irreparable damage to wildlife, ecologies, and human health. It is strange to consider plastic an heirloom because it is not something we treasure or hold dear, and it certainly is not something we would willingly wish to pass down to our children and grandchildren. Yet, it is an inheritance that we cannot escape.

This project, entitled “Acid Raincoat: A Future Heirloom," aims to turn an unconscious practice, plastic waste production, into a conscious one. It challenges us to reconsider or notions of value, think beyond our immediate needs, and to consider the legacy of our actions. By reframing our understanding of the longevity of waste and by putting it in context with heirlooms we can hopefully confront our pre-conceived notions of the value and longevity of the everyday items we see as disposable. Acid Raincoat is a garment for our future selves, made from used plastic bags, the garment is meant to protect ourselves from future problems that we create. Plastic bags are often used to protect and preserve the items within them and with this garment we become what is meant to be protected and preserved. Plastic waste can indirectly contribute to acid rain by increasing the amount of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere. The production of plastic requires the use of fossil fuels, such as oil and natural gas, which release carbon dioxide when burned. When plastic is disposed of improperly, such as by burning it, it also releases carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants into the air, which can contribute to climate change and acid rain.

Ultimately, this garment urges wearers to consider both the timescales and toxicity of their plastic waste and the threat that it poses to future generations.