An aboriginal community in Australia is tired of seeing its shoreline littered with plastic pollution. Garbage washes ashore in such large quantities that it has turned a once pristine beach into a landfill and killed the marine life that the community depends on as a food source.

Everything from plastic laundry bottles to large fishing nets litters the beach of the small community, Pormpuraaw, with no place to go. But, rather than let the plastic pollution overtake their 700-member town, locals are turning the garbage into artwork.

From trash to cash

Over the past few years locals started collecting pieces of garbage and turning it into intricate sculptures. In many cases, large fishing nets supported by wire, serve as the base of sea life sculptures.

The artwork isn’t just cleaning the shorelines; it’s become a desperately needed export. The sculptures are shown in art galleries and exhibits around the world, with some pieces selling for up to $15,000.

This kind of cash infusion is a big deal for an isolated community that’s struggling economically. The town sits 400-miles away from the nearest town, Cairns, and is only accessible by plane for about four months during the dry season. There’s no high school and little employment opportunities.

Art is providing a much-needed export, giving the small community a commodity to share with the outside world. A filmmaker recently spent time with the artists and created this five-minute video that documents the artistic process.


Ghost Nets Pormpuraaw from Sum of Infinity on Vimeo.

Garbage art becomes trendy

A growing number of artists are turning plastic waste into art, not just to make a few bucks but also to educate the public about this growing problem.

Dianna Cohen, for example, sews together plastic bags that she finds along the California shore as her preferred medium. She has even created a non-profit and a film, Open Your Eyes, narrated by Jeff Bridges, that explores the plight of the planet.

Artist Pam Langobardic works with groups to clean ocean-side waste and turn it into art. Brother and sister duo, Carter and Olivia Rise, started an organization that encourages elementary kids to collect garbage and turn it into art. They were just seven and eight-years-old when they started One More Generation, now four years later, they have worked with 50 schools.

The need for change

Using garbage that’s contaminating oceans, rivers and streams in art spreads awareness about plastic pollution, but for real change to occur, everyone must get involved.

Small changes like taking reusable bags to the grocery store or filling a reusable water bottle are helpful, but at this point, larger changes are necessary.

Technology exists to drastically reduce the amount of plastic that consumer’s purchase. It’s called refill technology. Rather than buying a new plastic jug of soap or laundry detergent, you’d simply refill the same bottle at small kiosk at your local retailer.

To make refill technology a reality, sign the petition below to show retailers that you’re ready to stop the plastic pollution that’s littering waterways. Tell them #WeWantRefill.