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Cleaning Up the Ocean with Washed Ashore


Washed Ashore Art to Save the Sea: A travelling exhibition from stuff your chuck in the sea

A sea turtle named Herman, an octopus called Octavia, and a seal named Lidia all spent this summer in the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. But unlike the zoo’s other residents, they are not real animals. These creatures are actually huge sculptures—and they’re made entirely out of plastic trash from the ocean.

These giant artworks, along with 14 others, are part of a traveling exhibit called “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.” The Washed Ashore project, led by artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi, works to raise awareness about the problem of plastic pollution in Earth’s oceans.


More than 315 billion pounds of plastic litter the world’s oceans today.

Most of this plastic is garbage from towns and cities, as well as trash that people leave on beaches. Rainwater, winds, and high tides bring the trash into the ocean or into rivers that lead to the ocean. Once it is under the waves, the plastic begins to break up into smaller and smaller pieces. It often collects in spots called garbage patches, which spread over vast areas.

Thousands of ocean animals—including whales, sea turtles, and fish—die each year from eating or getting tangled in plastic bags and other items. Plastic pieces can also injure coral and kill sea grass. Each year, millions more pounds of plastic end up in the ocean. A recent study by the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that if this continues, by 2050, the total weight of plastic in the ocean will be more than the combined weight of all the fish in the ocean.


Washed Ashore and other organizations are working to stop that from happening. Since 2010, Washed Ashore volunteers have collected 38,000 pounds of plastic trash from more than 300 miles of beaches. They helped Pozzi create more than 60 sculptures of marine creatures that are harmed by plastic pollution.

The “Washed Ashore” exhibit opened at the Denver Zoo in Colorado on September 24 2016.

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