My research for Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch opened my eyes not only to the work in the scientific community, but to the artists who give the ocean a voice using upcycled materials. Here’s a short list of just some of the talented people creating environmentally-friendly products and works of art by reusing plastic:
- Earth It Up — a nonprofit organization founded to divert waste and upcycle it for the benefit of
charitable organizations. Earth It Up takes items that would otherwise end up in landfills or the oceans and converts them into useful, interesting purses, totes and lunch bags. These include a line of Capri Sun lunch bags for school children and sophisticated Peet’s and Starbuck’s coffee purses that are carried by stylish, environmentally conscious women throughout the nation. Unlike some other organizations, Earth it Up! does not ship materials offshore (creating a larger carbon footprint), or use any ‘sweatshop’ manufacturing techniques. All of their products are hand sewn in California.
Trash for Peace — Portland, Oregon native Laura Kutner went to Guatemala on a Peace Corps mission. Mountains of plastic trash littered the streets. Laura decided to build schools with it, motivating the community to band together and clean up it streets. A partner organization has since built 25 additional schools. Back home in Portland, Laura started a nonprofit organization that builds recycling bins from upcycled plastics. Trash for Peace also visits local schools to teach students about the plastic problem.
- During a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium I saw the work of two artists who are increasing awareness of plastic waste through their art by revaluing and re-purposing discarded plastic items. Alison McDonald‘s Message in a Bottle sculptures “create a dialogue about the negative and positive effects of plastic on our natural world.” Sayaka Ganz created Laysan Albatross from cast-off remnants plastic. According to a plaque at the aquarium, “Ganz spent her early years in Japan, where Shinto beliefs teach that every object has a spirit, and an object discarded before its time weeps at night inside the trash bin.”