There’s been a great deal of focus on plastic pollution washed ashore and floating in our oceans recently and with good reason. Unfortunately, over 91% is not recycled. Landfills and the oceans are filled with refuse and eventually it makes it’s way back into the food chain.
Plastic is made from many chemicals that aren’t just bad for the earth, they’re toxic to living creatures as well. Once they reach the ocean, they become part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch-a mass of plastic twice the size of Texas, or three times the size of France floating between Hawaii and California.Whether this plastic pollution is washed ashore or floating in the ocean, the consequences can be deadly.
Washed Ashore is a non-profit organization whose mission is to use the arts to educate a global audience about plastic pollution in oceans and waterways and to spark positive change in consumer habits.
Founder and Director, Angela Haseltine Pozzi began this project in 2010 with the help of interns, apprentices and a small dedicated staff of thousands of community volunteers. Together under Angels’a direction, they began creating artwork made completely from plastic pollution washed ashore and collected from beaches.
Now, thousands of pounds of marine debris have been removed from beaches and processed into over 60 works of art which travel the country to raise awareness and teach the public about the tragedy facing the sea life in the world’s oceans. These graphic illustrations of powerful art spark a dialog about environmental conservation and sustainability.
The Mounts Botanical Garden of Palm Beach County is a hidden gem just minutes from the BPL airport. While it is worthy of a green space visit anytime, it’s a perfect diversion if you have some extra time before a flight, or arrive early and want to stretch your legs before being able to check into your hotel. The exciting exhibit I visited had installed ten of these beautifully designed and well crafted sculptures from The Washed Ashore Project.
Volunteers collected all of the plastic on the sculptures from beaches. Each sculpture is designed and directed by a lead artist and then created through a collaboration of the artist, Washed Ashore team members and volunteers.
American Sea Star
At first glance, this symbol of America appears as a fun, 3 dimensional representation of the red white and blue. On closer examination however, it quickly transforms before your eyes into something much darker. While still representative, it’s no longer in such a positive light. Plastic consumption and waste has reached epic proportions. This red, white and blue sea star was created to bring attention to plastics used in Independence Day celebrations.
Every Fourth of July, thousands of visitors flock to lakes, rivers and ocean shores to watch fireworks displays and celebrate with fireworks of their own. The result is thousands of pounds of plastic entering marine environments and affecting plant and animal habitats.
Water Quality + Plastic Pollution
Oxygen enters streams from the photosynthesis of aquatic plants. The process stops when the sun goes down and resumes at dawn. Plants and animals need dissolved oxygen for respiration.
High Oxygen levels support healthy ecosystems: levels depend on water temp, flow, depth, altitude and time of day and season. When plastics destroy the plants and change the habitat, oxygen levels are depleted.
The exhibit has a fun interactive aspect for kids of all ages. Can you find the: Shot gun shells, beer cans, soda cans, garbage can lid, gold balls bottle caps and toy truck wheel. Quite the checklist for a treasure hunt.
A Few Bits of Plastic Washed Ashore Trivia Since 2010:
- 90% of marine debris is petroleum based
- 95% of all debris collected is used in the artwork
- 300+ miles of beaches cleaned
- 60+ sculptures
- 38,000+ pounds of marine debris have been processed
- 14000+ hours have been contributed by volunteers
- 10,000 volunteers have participated
Sebastian James the Puffin
Tufted Puffins are diving birds and swim with their wings underwater while catching fish, their primary food source.
Like many ocean birds, puffins have been known to mistake plastic for food. This fills their stomachs with plastic and can lead to starvation. Entanglement in abandoned fishing gear can also be a deadly encounter. Plastic pollution washed ashore can be deadly for shore birds. Flip-flops, shoe soles and disposable lighters all play a role in this piece.
Foam containers often have food residue on them; animals commonly bite or fill their stomachs with material they can’t digest.
Pro Tip: Next time you go out to eat, bring your own container for a doggie bag.
Grace the Humpback Whale
Humpback whales swim through every ocean in the world. After seeing them on display in both Alaska and Hawaii, I realize how easily these gentle giants have become an iconic symbol for many who love the ocean.
Hunted to the brink of extinction by whalers, the species now represents one of the most successful comeback stories in the ocean. While their numbers are continuing to increase, it is our responsibility to insure their environment is free from trash-our own man made disaster. By reducing the plastic in our lives we will reduce the amount going into the ocean.
Pro Tip: Purchase local sustainable products to avoid unnecessary plastic packaging.
Seaweed is the generic term for many leafy forms of algae that provide habitat for thousands of ocean animals and help to form the base of the ocean food chain. Seaweed leaves are called blades. The blades of this seaweed sculpture are made with plastic pallets and chairs and can be played like tambourines. Interactive for visitors, different sounds are created by the various bottle caps and pull tabs on the algae. In addition one can find tennis balls, conduit pipe and plastic crates.
Pro Tip: The next time you buy a plastic product, consider how long the plastic is going to last. If it cannot be recycled, find a creative way to repurpose it and avoid adding it to the waste stream. Make your own outdoor sculpture.
Water Bottle Jelly
Sea jellies have an incredibly unique life cycle which has helped some jellies survive more than 500 million years. They spend the majority of their existence growing on the sea floor as hydroids before they bud off and float through the water.
In modern oceans, plastic bags strongly resemble sea jellies in this floating life stage. Hungry turtles often cannot tell the difference and this deadly mistake is now on of the biggest threats to sea turtles worldwide. Nylon rope, and buoys add “extra” detail to the sea jellies.
Pro Tip: Many areas of the world have already banned the use of plastic bags. Beat them to the punch and use your own fabric bags when you shop, made of course, from up cycled material.
Flash the Marlin
Marlin are some of the fastest swimmers in the world and a highly sought after sport fish. Blue Marlin, the most tropical of the 10 marlin species, cruise through the open ocean often covering hundreds of miles. During their travels, they swim through waters inundated with plastic pollution. Clean water is vital to keeping the marlin healthy.
ProTip:You might have seen my Earth Day post, asking readers to join me by refusing to use plastic straws. While I have complete control of my habits at home, I’ll admit it’s not easy to remember to ask wait staff not to put a straw in my water or cocktail. Each time I make a request, I get a quizzical look, and it gets easier. Sometimes it opens up a conversation, which I love! You can see a light bulb of change switch on. Habits are hard to change and you just have to do your best.
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Happy Earth Day friends. I know we’re just a small piece of the big picture, but every action can add up. I’ve started requesting #NoStrawPlease when I order a drink. No longer want to be a part of the 500 million plastic straws we throw into landfill and the oceans EVERY day. Can you join me with this or another pledge? #makeeverydayearthday #boomersinfl
Every piece of plastic in the oceans was once purchased by someone, discarded, became waterborne and landed on a beach where someone else picked it up and made a difference. Sometimes the problem can be overwhelming, but if you break it down and remember that picking up one plastic bag might save a green turtle, you can quickly see that Every Action, no matter how small, counts!
For more on the locations or information visit Washed Ashore – Art to Save the Sea.
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There’s more: Have you seen this home in Russia tricked out with plastic? This granny has a wild creative streak!