Carbon Neutral and Carbon Negative Materials and Working Practices

Rupert Bunny Visual Arts Fellowship 2020 – Research Project and Artwork

CAPTURE is a new PluginHUMAN research and art project involving carbon neutral and carbon negative materials and working practices.

The combination of art and science in CAPTURE gives the audience incredible insight into the beauty of the natural world.

Cr Louise Crawford, Mayor, City of Port Phillip, Australia

The research phase of our fellowship has involved developing compostable biopolymers that contain high-carbon organic waste materials. We are processing and sealing this organic matter in compostable biopolymers and making sculptural forms from the biopolymers. All of the compostable materials will be composted and buried at the end of the project in order to contain and stabilise the carbon over time.

The outcome of our fellowship research will be exhibited in 2020-21. Following the conclusion of our fellowship, we will conduct further research in order to better measure and maximise ways that our composted and buried biopolymers can be stabilised so that it can contain the carbon over the longest possible time.


PluginHUMAN live and work in an area of Melbourne (Australia) that features historic Platanus Trees (plane trees). These introduced species are both loved and loathed by locals. The leaves do not easily decompose in domestic compost systems, so the huge quantity of leaves that are dropped by these trees every autumn mostly ends up in landfill. Once in landfill, the leaves can contribute to a build-up in methane, a gas that is worse for the environment than carbon dioxide (CO2).

We have been collecting large quantities of plane tree leaves. Our research shows that these leaves are high in carbon and their slow decomposition rates may help slow the release of carbon from their leaves. We have been experimenting with sealing large quantities of these leaves in our own custom-made compostable biopolymers. Our intention is to use this high-carbon biopolymers as a sculptural material. We are also photographing our biopolymers while they are under microscope. We are then using environmental data to animate the photo-microscopy images. Ultimately we are creating a video artwork that features the intimate qualities of our new materials. At the end of the project all of the organic materials will be composted and buried.

Our experimentation has involved using sea-weed as the main ingredient in our bioplastics, as this helps reduce the carbon footprint of our materials.

PluginHUMAN Justin Dwyer and Betty Sargeant. CAPTURE 2020. Carbon neutral and carbon negative practices and materials.
PluginHUMAN Justin Dwyer and Betty Sargeant. CAPTURE 2020. Carbon neutral and carbon negative practices and materials.


Betty Sargeant ~ Artist

Justin Dwyer ~ Artist

This project has been supported by the City of Port Phillip through the Rupert Bunny Foundation Visual Arts Fellowship.

Rupert Bunny Visual Art Fellowship


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