Manuella Blackburn


  • Manuella Blackburn
  • Year of composition: 2021
  • Duration: 7:56
  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium

Microplastics is an acousmatic work derived solely from plastic sound sources. These sounds are predominately from waste accumulated from household use (empty milk containers, bottles, straws, lids, cling film, and wrappers).

Further sources were captured at the Manchester Education Centre and Materials Recovery Facility in Sharston (England, UK), which illuminated ways in which plastics are separated and sorted by the Aladdin machine. This visit provided an eye-opening visual for the monumental scale of plastic waste, which is represented sonically half-way through the work through an unprocessed raw recording of plastic rubbish being dumped out into a colossal mountain of unbelievable proportions.

Yet further to these recordings and sources are sounds collected from micro-sized plastics, sourced from the south coast of England curtesy of Rob Arnold (visual artists and microplastics cleanup expert). These microplastic pieces, no larger that 5 mm in diameter are a mix of worn-down plastic remnants of past plastic objects (lids, shards, tubing, rims and strips) and ‘nurdles’ or ‘bio-beads’ waste, which present hazardous, detrimental ecological damage to marine life and the environment. The plastics industry convert nurdles into plastic products, however the movement and transportation of these tiny pellets of plastic regularly encounter accidental spills, spreading out into water and drainage systems. Bio-beads are equally problematic, entering the sea via their use in sewage filtration systems. These minuscule plastic particles can be mistaken for food by marine life and birds in the environment.

This work explores the sound world of this disastrous pollution and unfortunate particles debris that now inhabit the world in insurmountable quantities.


Microplastics was realized in 2021 at the Snowdon Studio in the Clock House of Keele University (England, UK) and the composer’s studio, BlackBear Studio, in Manchester (England, UK). Thanks to plastic waste sculptor Rob Arnold for providing the microplastic waste collected from Tregantle Beach in Cornwall (England, UK), John Wiggins for providing an old plastic bottle, and the Waste Experience team at the Manchester Education Centre and Materials Recovery Facility in Sharston (England, UK). On April 2, 2021 Microplastics was awarded an honorable mention in the Composed with Sound category of the 1st Sound of Year Awards (UK).


  • April 23, 2021, BEAST FEaST 2021: Concert 5, Birmingham (England, UK)



  • 2020, Manchester Education Centre and Materials Recovery Facility, Sharston (England, UK)