Lidia the Seal sculpture made from plastic debris. Source: Washed Ashore

A peaceful, beautiful walk on the beach can be tainted when a plastic bottle or bag washes up and touches your toes. Just the other weekend, I witnessed pieces of candy wrappers and plastic soda bottles dancing in the waves in Myrtle Beach. It was disgusting. I know that it is tourist season, but there is no excuse for trash on the beach. People are lazy, disrespectful and just trashy. This trash left behind on the beaches gets washed into the ocean. Debris in the ocean and on the beaches harms people and animals and presents hazards to tourism and marine life.

On the West Coast, there is an amazing art exhibit appropriately named, Washed Ashore, led by artist and educator Angela Haseltine Pozzi. In Oregon, she worked with members of the community, schools and state parks to collect plastic trash that had washed up on the beaches. The plastic was washed, sorted, cut and made into art supplies. The Washed Ashore art collection includes 15 sea creatures made almost entirely of plastic trash from the ocean. In fact, all of her sculptures are 98 percent discarded plastic. According to the website, “Washed Ashore aims to educate and create awareness about marine debris and plastic pollution through art.”

Debris art supplies for the project. Source: Washed Ashore

Check out the amazing photo slide show, it shows details of the types of plastic. See how many you can identify!  http://www.washedashore.org/slideshows.php

Plastic pollution affects at least 250 species worldwide. It has been estimated that in one year, marine debris has killed as many as 1,000 seabirds, 100,000 sea turtles and 60,000 seals. Another huge issue is that about 3 million tons of plastic trash swirl around in the Pacific Ocean, it’s appropriately called the Great Garbage Patch and apparently it’s twice the size of Texas. You can learn more about it here: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/oceanography/great-pacific-garbage-patch.htm

Washed Ashore is a traveling exhibit, which has been in locations between Oregon and California. The art is currently displayed at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA until Oct. 15, 2011. If you can’t make it there, check it out online. There are ways to get involved. I was so fascinated and excited about this project that I emailed the artist to reach out and try to connect her with us on the East coast. I would love to bring the Washed Ashore project to our community in Myrtle Beach. I believe it would be a huge impact. She hasn’t emailed back yet, but I hope she will!

The Washed Ashore project website: http://www.washedashore.org/

the author

Originally from Virginia, Jennifer C. Sellers is passionate about sustainability and conservation in South Carolina and throughout the world. She earned her BA in English from Coastal Carolina University and her MAS in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Denver. She is a university sustainability coordinator that implements programs and teaches people about going green and being sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @MyGreenGlasses

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  1. NC-BFF on August 1, 2011

    This is cool but I have to admit the seal looks a bit freaky.

  2. sandy on August 9, 2011

    Plastics start as nurdles (pre-production plastic) and sadly, they end up in our oceans in that form. Check out this video to know more about nurdles. http://youtu.be/57_KdKrJKeM

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