When beachgoers see plastic wash ashore, they might see it as destructive pollution, or someone else’s problem. When Angela Haseltine Pozzi, founder and artistic director of the Washed Ashore Project sees it, she recognizes its potential to transform into an artistic masterpiece that can also serve as a powerful teaching tool about ocean preservation.
Washed Ashore is a non-profit community art project based in Bandon, Oregon and founded by Pozzi in 2010. Since its inception, Washed Ashore has processed 26 tons (and counting!) of plastic pollution from Pacific beaches to create stunning sea sculptures – with visible trash still intact. There are over 70 colorful and massive sea sculptures, including Chompers the Shark, Priscilla the Parrotfish and Lidia the Seal.
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The irony is that these artistic marine masterpieces are made up of plastic that threatens sea creatures’ very existence. Tragically, sea turtles often mistake plastic bags floating in the ocean as jellyfish to consume. If they try to eat one, the plastic can destroy their digestive systems and kill them. Sea creatures also get entangled in plastic pollution, which takes over 600 years to decompose.
The impactful Washed Ashore exhibit can be seen at its hometown location, the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C., as well as traveling exhibits.