5 Stunning Pieces Of Art Made From Aquatic Trash

There’s a lot of garbage out there in the ocean. But when it washes up on beaches, it can form the basis of some absolutely stunning art.
From steampunk sharks to giant jellyfish and scary abstract assemblages, there’s no limit to the creativity of these artists when using found objects.
Let’s be clear: the amount of trash that washes up on the beach is a tiny fraction of the garbage we dump into the ocean (and that gets mistakenly eaten by sea turtles, birds and more). And the amount of trash that artists pick up from that tiny fraction is an even tinier portion. So the best thing to do is make sure garbage doesn’t make it into the ocean to begin with.
But in the meantime, these five artists are turning lemons into lemonade in the interest of raising awareness for ocean causes.
Mandy Barker’s mandalas
Picture of art installation made from 500 pieces of plastic
Photo by Mandy Barker.
Photographer Mandy Barker salvages trash from beaches worldwide. This image is made from more than 500 plastic pieces, all taken from the digestive tract of a (dead) albatross chick in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Anne Percoco’s cloud
Picture of floating sculpture made out of discarded water bottles
A mobile sculpture made out of discarded water bottles.
Made from discarded plastic bottles, Indra’s Cloud, by Anne Percoco, floats on the Yamuna River in India. Percoco was inspired to make this piece after visiting an ashram and noticing that foreign yoga students were “going through water bottles at a surprising rate.” She collected a thousand water bottles and sewed them into a raft, which floated around the city, completing one circuit—after which they were recycled into tiny pots to hold tree saplings.
Better: the yoga retreat now uses refillable dispensers instead of bottled water.
Claudio Garzon’s steampunk animals
Picture of a shark made out of discarded bits of plastic
Steam punk shark made out of discarded bits and bobs.
Artist Claudio Garzon collects plastic from the Los Angeles River and sculpts the scraps into “steampunk” sea creatures like sharks and turtles.
Garzon has since cofounded a nonprofit called Save Oceans and Seas—SOS, and teaches elementary school kids about the importance of protecting the ocean.
Rebecca Lyon’s eerie whale
Picture of a whale sculpture made out of trash
Photo by Chris Arend/Anchorage Museum.
Rebecca Lyon, an Athabascan/Alutiiq artist from Anchorage, created this whale, titled “Plastic Death,” to demonstrate “that convenience has had unexpected, toxic results.”
Demaris Yearick’s larger-than-life jelly
Picture of a lamp in the shape of a jellyfish
A light fixture made in the form of a jellyfish. Photo by Dana Parker
Artist, gardener and environmentalist Demaris Yearick created this 9-foot-tall jelly sculpture using trash collected by volunteers cleaning up the waterways around Virginia Beach, Virginia. It includes 100 plastic bottles, plastic cups, fishing poles and line, Styrofoam (including a Styrofoam buoy and life preserver), a wooden sign, sheets of plastic, plastic bags and even manicure sandals.
These are just five examples of trash that has been turned into art. Until we collectively clean up our act, there are likely to be many, many more opportunities for artists to turn our junk into artistic gold.