Plastic Pollution: Washed Ashore Oceans

May 2018

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.

Washed Ashore Marlin Mounts botanical Garden

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.

Plastic pollution at the ocean. Photo courtesy of

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.

Washed Ashore plastic sorting

A volunteer separates plastic pollution for Washed Ashore courtesy of

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.

Washed Ashore exhibit Mounts Botanical Garden

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.

Washed Ashore-Art to Save the Seas

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.

close up plastic pollution Washed Ashore Exhibit

Close up of sculpture

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.

Puffins made from plastic pollution Washed Ashore

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

Puffin created from plastic pollution Washed Ashore

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.

Whales tails Washed Ashore sculptures

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.

plastic pollution Washed Ashore ocean artwork

Musical Seaweed

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.

Plastic pollution Washed Ashore ocean artwork

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.

Washed Ashore Marlin Mounts botanical Garden

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.

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!

Plastic free beach

For more on the locations or information visit Washed Ashore – Art to Save the Sea.

Pin Me  Plastic Pollution Washed Ashore Ocean Artwork

plastic pollution Washed Ashore ocean artwork


Washed Ashore Plastic Pollution Traveling Sculptures

There’s more: Have you seen this home in Russia tricked out with plastic? This granny has a wild creative streak!

  1. I work in the plastic packaging industry and know the harm that comes from litter of all kinds. Plastic is just one of the materials that can be found washing up on shores around the world. The use of plastic is vital to help increase the life of perishable items, as well as providing a sanitary transportation package for medical supplies. The true issue here is that too many people are uncaring when disposing of their refuse.

    • alison says:

      I can’t speak to the medical industry Jeff, but there are plenty of ways to eliminate plastic from our lives. I’m sure some of the trash in the oceans comes from recycle bins around the world. The problem is it never breaks down. Of course the idea of littering is something to work on, but removing plastic from certain segments would make a huge difference. Just think about how #meatlessmonday has made people rethink about the meat in their diets.

  2. What an absolutely wonderful idea – like most people I am trying to cut down on the plastic I waste and I hate the idea of it ending up in the sea and endangering marine life, but I think this concept of making it into art is just brilliant.

    • alison says:

      Like you Jaillan, I’ve made a real effort to cut out my plastic as well. It’s incredible to see how pervasive it is in our everyday lives. All the way up and down the food chain.

  3. noel says:

    I love all this re-purposed trash into art, what a great thing to see even though there’s so much plastic waste in the world.

  4. Donna Janke says:

    Wow. The artwork is impressive, but also disturbing knowing it is made of washed ashore plastic. This exhibit gets the issue across in such a strong way!

    • alison says:

      Yes it was certainly impressive Donna, and I liked the fact that it was so family friendly. Parents could really open a discussion with kids about plastic and litter. One mention of Flash the Marlin and the kids would remember the concept immediately.

  5. What an eye opening article. I had no idea 91 percent was not recycled. I will certainly continue to do my part with renewed determination. The sculptures are beautiful and certainly bring home the message.

  6. Kathryn says:

    These are wonderful and such a good idea. I’m getting so disgusted by how people still use plastic bottles etc without a single care for our planet. Everyone and every business should be working together on this.

    • alison says:

      I am amazed at the quizzical looks I get in restaurants when I order and say “Please no plastic straw”. Maybe if I saw it enough times it will in turn become habit for waitstaff to not give them automatically and wait until a customer asks for one.

  7. Lucy says:

    Plastic is such a big issue in the oceans now – last time I was at the beach in Wales and picked up two bags worth just from tiny pieces near where we were sitting. This is such a good idea to raise awareness and hopefully remind people how much can be avoided if we change our habits and are a bit more mindful about how we impact on the environment.

    • alison says:

      Kudos to you Lucy for making the effort to pick up the trash. It’s such an easy thing to throw away your own garbage and disappointing more people don’t understand how important it is.

  8. I’ve made a real effort to reduce the plastic our household consumes. I won’t buy food packaged in plastic, refuse drinking straws and use a reusable plastic bottle for drinking water. Sadly it’s not going to stop the problem but as you say every action counts…

    • alison says:

      The supermarket is a real eyeopener. Plastic wrapped and plastic wrapped again. I just don’t get it!Once you start looking, it’s mind boggling how pervasive it is.

  9. I loved the quality of the pieces just as artworks, even though they’re made of stuff that’s normally considered garbage! It can be so hard to cut waste when so much of what we consume comes pre-packaged in plastic. I’d love to see big-name supermarkets move to bulk so that people could bring containers and fill them and pay by weight.

  10. Fida says:

    Impressive artistic work to make people aware of the problem. Stores in Switzerland started to charge for plastic and paper bags decades ago and sadly, it looks like making people pay for it is the only way to stop them using it. We also have to pay hefty garbage deposal fees which also teaches suppliers to use less packaging because we can leave that behind in the stores. Thanks for your very well written article!

    • alison says:

      Hello Fida, Thanks for stopping by! I was in a store recently that charges for bags and every person in line either left w/o a bag or brought their own. It’s unfortunate that we have had to resort to that method to discourage folks, but the pocketbook usually works!

  11. David says:

    This is a is a great initiative. Love the artworks, simply stunning.