Plastic poses an environmental threat that reflects negatively on people’s health, leaving repercussions that cannot be underestimated, especially since it requires hundreds of years to decompose. Lebanon is among the counties considered to have a massive excess of plastic bottles and containers. Today, it is incurring immense costs to recycle or dispose of 280 tons of it.
To alleviate the situation, the artist Caroline Chaptini decided to launch an initiative to reduce the damage resulting from plastic by incorporating used bottles and containers in her designs. Her first step project is erecting the world’s tallest Christmas tree. At 28 meters tall, it breaks the record that had previously been set in Mexico City. Her second work was designing the world’s largest crescent, which she made with used plastic lids and bottles. Both pieces entered in the Guinness Book of World Records, replacing Japan with her crescent made with recyclable plastics.
Today, Chaptini is preparing for a new project with which she hopes to break another world record. This time, she chose the Lebanese flag as a theme and she decided to design and manufacture it from plastic containers and lids. In an interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, she said: “ Lebanese Independence Day, November 22, is very nearly upon us. On this occasion, I would like to give a gift to my country, in the hope that it demonstrates its real role in the region, a cultural beacon that will never fade."
She adds: “The Beirut explosion and the catastrophe it caused compelled me to think of a positive contribution, through an artwork, that would alleviate some of the sadness caused by this disaster.
Chaptini searched for the Guinness Book of Records’ entry for the largest flag made of plastic, and when she found there was no such entry, she decided to make one. “I liked the idea, and I started preparing for it with young volunteers who are always ready to help with collecting the many plastic bottles, containers, and caps that I use in my designs. Currently, I am in the final stages of designing the flag.
"I have used materials that suit the flag’s colors, red and white, with green in the center, thousands of plastic and metal water bottles and lids used for candy containers and others."
It took about three weeks to design and make the flag, currently placed in a wedding venue in north Lebanon.
With the help of the two young men Yusef Masoud and Rabih Mahfoud, she made a 15-meter-long and 20-meter-wide flag. Its total size is around 300 square meters.
On breaking yet another record, Chaptini says: “I am very close to entering (Guinness) for a third time, especially since the concept has never been done before. After the final touches on the flag, I will film the work with a drone and send it to the encyclopedia."
On why no representative from the encyclopedia could come to Lebanon and examine the piece, she says: “Unfortunately, I do not have the budget. The cost of bringing a (Guinness) representative to our country is about $10,000. No official or private entity showed interest in supporting me financially. Until today, I am paying for my artistic works myself. I receive modest support from an environmental association (Go Green), which provides me with a limited amount of adhesive, no more."
Chaptini added that the proceeds of her work go to charitable organizations such as Kids First, which cares for children cancer patients.
She blames the officials in Lebanon for the lack of support for youths’ innovations, saying: “Unfortunately, in my two previous works, I caught the attention of other countries and no attention whatsoever from the Lebanese officials. I call upon all those associations and institutions concerned with preserving the environment in Lebanon and abroad to provide support for such works.
On her future projects, she adds: “I have many ideas for designs connected to the capital, Beirut. I am thinking of a work that focuses on sports, the youths, and our athletic achievements.”