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Interview with Archeoplastica: a story of finds, waste and stories

A project to reflect on how much the pollution of the seas is a problem to face seriously and quickly


The Mediterranean is increasingly hostage to plastics and microplastics: awareness of the problem has increased, especially in the new generations; few or insufficient political measures in this area. The world of volunteering and activism responds to the silence of institutions: the Archeoplastica project is one of these realities. We talked about it with Enzo Suma, founder of the project.

Ciao Enzo, tell us how the Archeoplastica project was born.

As the name might suggest, I’m not an archaeologist, I’m a naturalist. After university, I returned to Puglia and started working as a nature guide in the protected areas of my region. I have always taken care of cleaning the beaches but at some point I started doing it with more awareness, observing what I collected.

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But, just like an archaeologist, look for the stories behind the finds you find!

Yes, everything started again from the sea. It was 2018 and I found the first find: a spray tanner priced in lire. It was the Sixties! I got curious and tried to reconstruct the story. I thought: "I am often on the beach, if I find many finds I could create an interesting exhibition project". Thus in 2021 Archeoplastica was officially born.

Do you feel more like a plastic historian or an environmental activist?

The activism aspect is there but Archeoplastica is something different. Perhaps the historical side prevails: I apply myself with method in the reconstruction of the history of the finds. The look is almost journalistic, as in a documentary: I tell what was an object and what is, unfortunately, today. The environmental message is implicit.

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Is it the only project of its kind, or do subsidiaries exist outside Italy?

Certainly in Italy it is unique as a project and we replicate it ourselves both as collections and as itinerant exhibitions. Abroad, if I’m not mistaken in Holland, there was after Archeoplastica a small experience that vaguely recalls our project. From the point of view of marine pollution, the Italian peninsula is unfortunate and alas unique: the currents of the Mediterranean affect our coasts, especially those of Apulia. Until a few years ago some coastal regions of the north were almost immune, after the numerous storms unfortunately not. 

And do you carry it out yourself or are other people involved?

I deal mainly with communication and help in the realization of 3D models of the finds, visible on the site. As for the network of collectors, it started from Puglia but today it is widespread throughout Italy. Social media were very important for this.

Then I don’t even ask how important the Archeoplastica community is...

Fundamental! Of some finds we find we know nothing: people help us on social media to solve the mysteries behind these strange objects.

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Archeoplastica is limited to Italy or is it becoming an international phenomenon?

It has also reached other European countries thanks to Italians abroad. There is a nice exchange of ideas, of things that work outside of Italy and that we could replicate here.


The DRS, the deposit system for beverage containers. The German consumer, for example, knows that, when he buys a plastic bottle, he immediately pays more, but he can have a cashback of twenty cents when he recycles it at the appropriate collection points. A nice incentive for a circular economy and careful to reduce the consumption of plastics.

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Let’s talk about finds: you say you have over 500, but where do you keep them?!

In fact it is not updated: to date there are almost 1000! Not all of them we bring in exhibitions, many we use them only within the video content. There’s a warehouse we’re considering making open.

Do you remember any of them?

Surely the ball of the World Cup Italy 90: the most beautiful world, when I was a child, the one with Schillaci and Baggio. I never had that ball, finding it was like recalling that sporting history.

And then cups and sticks of ice cream that I ate as a child, in the Eighties.

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What about the one you found that’s geographically farthest?

We find bottles made in China, but obviously they don’t come directly from there. The objects that travel the most are the weather radiosondes: they are balloons, connected to sensors; they are used by the national meteorological service. Hundreds are thrown every day! After the balloon explodes, about 30 km from the ground, the sonde still works and it is possible to know, thanks to a site, where it is lowered. I personally found a fall off Turkey, which certainly did not make a linear path to get to Salento.

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Archeoplastica will remain a marine format or do you think that it can also be moved on land, in large cities? You could reconstruct the history of consumption of a metropolis through its waste!

Do you know that sometimes we organize exhibitions with associations of cities? Particular finds, linked to the territory, emerge during the river searches. But I believe that Archeoplastica will continue to revolve mainly around the sea.

One last question: do you think that the change can only come from below or there must also be a change of register from above?

One does not exclude the other, but we must all travel towards the progressive elimination of disposable plastic. Many individuals can put pressure on governments to apply environmental standards in Italy. I don’t demonize plastic, if anything, the disposable one: Archeoplastica aims to open the eyes on an irreparable problem.



Illustration by Gloria Dozio - Acrimònia Studios