Circle of life: photographer uses Lion King collectables to highlight our plastic waste problem

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By HOLLY HARMAN

A Melbourne photographer is taking a unique approach to highlight our growing plastic waste problem, by recreating iconic Lion King scenes with Woolworth’s collectables.

The statement comes from the backdrop he uses.

Rather than putting them in the Serengeti, Stu Morley photographs the toys known as “Ooshies” amongst landfill.

“They’re really just a collectable, so what are they going to do? Sit on a shelf for a while, or tossed in a bin… and then they’re waste,” Mr Morley said.

“If you project forward, if we keep filling the world with waste, what will we have? We’ve got to start thinking sustainably.”

Photographer Stu Morley capturing Ooshies within rubbish for the #futurelandfill campaign. PHOTO: Supplied.

Mr Morley has partnered with lobby group Future Landfill to highlight the environmental dangers supermarket promotional crazes such as Ooshies pose.

Since July, a #futurelandfill petition has been signed more than 10,000 times in a bid to stop production of the plastic collectables. 

Working alongside Future Landfill co-founders Alex Wadelton and Tom Whitty, Mr Morley said the campaign aimed to tackle the “excess waste of plastic”.

“They came to me with changing the scenes of The Lion King and having the Ooshies in there, but using trash to send the message that they’re heading toward landfill,” Mr Morley said. 

In recreating the images, Mr Morley said “we made sure we were down on a good level and took the same sort of angle to the figurines as they were in the original shots”.

Mr Morley used lighting to give the Ooshies a backlit effect, before they were finished off with “a bit of photoshop magic”.

“We wanted people to see the depth within them – that they’re in landfill, in and around trash.” 

Stu Morley hopes photography will send a powerful message about preventable waste going to landfill. PHOTO: Supplied

A Woolworths spokesperson said they had a partnership with recycling company Terracycle.

The partnership allowed customers to return any unwanted Ooshies to Woolworths stores before October 31, to be collected and recycled.

A short promotional video from Terracycle explained the toys were “recycled to form plastic pellets, which are used to make outdoor products such as garden beds, outdoor decking, fences and benches”. 

Ooshies toys recreating the iconic Lion King sunset scene, surrounded by landfill. PHOTO: Stu Morley

Environment Victoria was contacted, but was unable to comment on the growing waste issue. 

Mr Morley said Future Landfill had suggested an alternative plan, to release a series of biodegradable cards featuring Lion King characters that had been “seed embedded”.

“They would be cards that, after the child is finished with them, perhaps could be planted and there’s their circle of life,” he said.

However, Woolworths has since announced its new discovery garden promotion to be launched in September, which will replace the Ooshies campaign. 

In a sign the message about renewables has been heard, children will be encouraged to collect 24 different seedlings growing in biodegradable pots.