Plastic Art Projects

There are many attractive, deliberate, thought-provoking art installations using reclaimed ocean plastic or other disposable materials. I wanted to present a selection of them on my blog to show my readers how some people are trying to spread the message about plastics in our environment. This highlights some of the ones I’ve found both online and in my personal travels. I’ll be sure to add this page as I discover more inspirational art. Enjoy!

North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores

I discovered this piece near the interior entrance of the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores in Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina. I took my son there on a rainy day while visiting my best friend in Emerald Isle, North Carolina. This representation of a blue marlin made from trash, of course, made me gasp with excitement! I examined it longer than my young son could tolerate at the time and remembered to take photos of it. It was really cool and one of the first pieces like this that I encountered in person!

Plastic swordfish at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.

Blue Marlin art installation at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.
Blue Marlin art installation at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. Photos by me.

 

Creative Discovery Museum

The Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee has two different areas where children can create art from either traditional mediums and/or upcycled materials. This art installation in their art gallery is a flower garden of sorts. All of the “flowers” were made from plastic bottles that were collected, cleaned, spray-painted, cut and assembled. Isn’t it gorgeous and inspiring? Imagine it from a child’s perspective!

Wall of flowers created from colorful plastic bottles at the Creative Discovery Museum.
Wall of flowers created from plastic bottles at the Creative Discovery Museum, made by Signal Centers Adult Day Services. Photo by me.
Close up image of flowers created from plastic bottles at the Creative Discovery Museum
Photo by me.

Freedom Park and Sculpture Garden, Camano Island, WA

Orca sculpture made from beach trash
“That Killer Whale is Garbage!” by Mike Gifford on Flickr, Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This orca sculpture on Camano Island was created by a group of 6th graders for a class project. Those kids gathered, cleaned, and created this sculpture with the help of a metalworker artist, and all of the trash was collected from the island’s shoreline. Quoted in an article about the piece, one of the students said, “I hope that people will look at Greyson the Whale and think all that plastic was in the water and will try to use less plastic.” I love this sculpture!

The Container Recycling Institute

The Container Recycling Institute (CRI) did an art installation in 2017 to represent the number of recyclable beverage containers consumed by a single person each year. I’ve always argued that these are the most common single-use disposable items found during litter clean-ups, so I was quite excited by this project!

Here’s another art installation by the CRI representing that only 32% of beverage containers actually get recycled. Love the dolphins!

Beach Plastics Art

Kristine Cummins, an ocean-loving artist, spends her spare time collecting small plastic pieces washed up on the beaches of Hawaii and California. She cleans, sorts by color, and creates beautiful works of art with these pieces of plastic. Check out her website and read about her process, it’s really interesting. I’ve actually been following her on Instagram for a couple of years and I discovered her through the Litterati community. Here’s an example of one of her gorgeous pieces:

Art work by Kristine Cummins

Kristine even makes her own recycled paper for many of her plastic art pieces. She’s just truly inspiring! I hope to try similar art projects in my free time someday, not that they will be of this caliber, but it will be fun!

Skyscraper the Bruges Whale by STUDIOKCA

This project is super impressive! This company picked up beach and ocean plastics, sorted and cleaned the plastics, engineered and assembled them into a 4-story whale art installation.

This is the video from their successful 2018 Kickstarter:

Beautifully done. I’m kind of wordless on this one!

Rabbit Rabbit Sculpture by Robert Bradford

This is another that’s inspiring! A rabbit sculpture made from toys. While I’m an artist simply as a hobby, I do happen to have a large box of broken toys that I’ve been saving and had planned to send to TerraCycle, after I saved up the $119 for my second Zero Waste Toys box. Perhaps I should construct something like this (and if I sold it for the asking price of the following, I’d donate that money to the Plastic Pollution Coalition)!

 

Ophelia the Octopus, created by High School Students

Art students at Kodiak High School in Alaska created an octopus sculpture out of marine debris to generate public awareness of plastics in the ocean. High School students did this – wow!

Washed Ashore

These works are nothing short of amazing and beautiful and uplifting! Created by artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi to portray the diversity of ocean trash and to educate about ocean pollution. Pozzi designs the sculptures and leads school workshops. Volunteers collect trash from the beach, and then clean, sort, and assist with construction. You can more about Washed Ashore on their website, this article from the Smithsonian, and you can even watch her process in this video.

Priscilla the Parrotfish plastic art sculpture
Priscilla the Parrotfish
Shark sculpture from plastic
Shark sculpture from plastic
Maury the sea turtle plastic sculpture
Maury the Sea Turtle
Lidia the Seal plastic sculpture
Lidia the Seal

The World of Litter by Peter Smith

The World of Litter plastic globe in Amsterdam, floating in the water.
The World of Litter, Amsterdam. Photo by FaceMePLS on Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Dutch artist and founder of the KLEAN foundation Peter Smith made a globe of plastic trash in 2012 from what he collected on the streets of Amsterdam, to call attention in the Netherlands to the plastic soup problem. The statue’s purpose was successful in that it has been viewed and read about by millions of people. Here’s a video that explains Smith’s goals and process:

I love that he said that one of his goals was to have picking up litter become a normal activity for people. I mentioned the same idea when I wrote my Litterati post.

Mermaid washed ashore in plastic bottles

Mermaid washed ashore in plastic bottles photograph
Photograph by Benjamin Von Wong

Benjamin Von Wong photographed a mermaid, washed ashore in a sea of 10,000 plastic bottles, as a way to make the plastic pollution problem more interesting to people. You can read more about this project on his website. He also made a video about his purpose and process:

Ocean Sole

Image of Ocean Sole's Giraffe sculptures made from upcycled flip-flops.
Ocean Sole Giraffes

Ever thought about all of those cheap flip-flops people wear and inevitably throw away? Many are made from plastic and end up in waterways and the oceans – apparently even on the East African coast. The Ocean Sole organization, which calls itself a social enterprise because of the good they do, collects flip-flops on the coast of Kenya and upcycles them into colorful sculptures to sell and support the local economy. They upcycle about 400,000 flip-flops and sandals annually. That’s a lot of plastic not staying in the ocean. What a great venture!

 

Are there art projects featuring plastics and other discarded materials that you’d like to share? Please leave a comment or use the contact me form to tell me about them!

Thanks for reading.

 

Footnote:

  1. Article, “Camano students collect debris, transform it into artSeptember 6, 2015

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