Plastic pirouettes: Japan’s recycled bottle ballet

The dancers' futuristic headgear glints under the lights at a top ballet show, but just two months ago their plastic costumes were sticky bottles tossed into a Tokyo recycling bin.

"Plastic," a new production by renowned Japanese company K-BALLET, aims to draw attention to a global pollution crisis through some unusual set and wardrobe design.

Tutus made from used bubble wrap, four huge recycled bottle walls and 100 transparent umbrellas left behind in the Japanese capital all feature in the performance, which drew a full house to its first short run in Yokohama.

Resembling space-age creatures with hand-cleaned PET bottles strapped to their bodies, a troupe including US guest star Julian MacKay leaped and spun their way through a shifting labyrinth on stage.

Plastic waste has doubled globally in 20 years and only nine percent is successfully recycled, according to the OECD group of developed countries.

The United Nations says the volume of plastic entering the oceans will nearly triple by 2040.

MacKay, 25, told AFP that the "huge problem" of plastic waste "really hasn't gotten that spotlight" in the dance world, and he believes performing arts can help inspire people to act.

"When you take a medium like ballet or dance, and you add it together with recycling or upcycling, you kind of force people to think, 'well, what else can I do, what else works?'"

Back in November, past midnight in Tokyo's Harajuku fashion district, K-BALLET's chief producer Taiju Takano and scenographer Naoya Sakata went rooting through recycling bins to find their plastic props.

Joining staff from waste management company Shirai Eco Center, they shook out tubs and sorted plastic bottles from piles of used coffee cups, aluminum...

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