‘Washed Ashore’: Lauritzen Gardens exhibit uses recovered recyclables for art, environment message


Penguin made from recyclables found in Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oregon.
Penguin made from recyclables found in Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oregon.

Using sculptures created from recovered plastic, Lauritzen Gardens’ latest exhibit seeks to show the importance of conservation and recycling.

“Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea,” which runs through May 14, features more than a dozen sculptures made from plastic found on the Oregon coastline that washed ashore from the Pacific Ocean.

While giant sculptures of sharks, penguins and sea dragons are cute, the more serious message is the damage being done to the sea’s ecosystem. More than 1.8 billion pieces of plastic float in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, alone.

Washed Ashore uses art in hopes of educating people on ways to recycle and repurpose things we use daily. Items used to create the Lauritzen exhibits include spoons, bottles, bottle caps, bags and toilet seats.

Shark made from recycled items
Chompers the Shark may look cute, but it’s created from plastics dumped in the ocean.

Each sculpture, such as Chompers the Shark, includes a list of plastics used to create it as well as recommendations to help reduce waste. Suggestions include taking a bag or bucket with you on a walk and picking up waste along the way. You never know how many animals – domestic and wild – your actions may save.

Why should Midwesterners care about pollution in the oceans? Besides being part of a global community, waste that makes its way into our local rivers and creeks, such as the Missouri River, flows downriver to the Mississippi River, ending up in the Gulf of Mexico. So, little steps we take at home can have greater impacts our environment.

Recycling recommendations

Visitors to the exhibit see suggestions on improving recycling and eliminating waste, such as using orange bags, sold by Hefty, to get rid of plastics, foam and other items that are not recyclable. The orange bags are used for creating energy by being safely burned at approved sites. While people have to buy the bags, we can personally attest to the impact they have in reducing the amount of garbage heading to the landfill. We buy ours at Hy-Vee.

Heft Orange recycling bag
Hefty Orange bag program helps keep plastics that can’t be recycled out of the landfill.

Ideas to help reduce waste include:

  • Recycle. Simply putting plastics in recycling bins can reduce the amount of plastic in landfills and waterways.
  • Repurpose. Like antique dealers, find ways to repurpose items that may find their way landfill or roadside ditches. Glass jars could become vases or used for storage.
  • Recycle glass. While most city recycling pick-up programs don’t include glass items, there are places and drop-off sites. Check your local Wasteline website for further information.
  • Plan. Simply planning purchases can reduce waste. Taking reusable shopping bags to the store eliminates the need for plastic bags. Buying local instead of online reduces extra packing used on shipments.

While we’re far from the most ecological savvy people, we always look for ways to reduce our carbon footprint.

As you visit Lauritzen Gardens and admire the art of Washed Ashore, consider ways that you may be able to help the environment and protect animals.