Trash into treasure: Group uses art to raise awareness of ocean pollution

Washed Ashore exhibits feature sculptures of animals made from beach trash

We’ve all heard the saying, "One person’s trash is another person’s treasure." A group in Oregon has taken it to heart and is using that trash to raise awareness of pollution in our oceans.

Starting in 2010, volunteers from Washed Ashore began scouring beaches to rid them of plastic and other trash. Nearly all of that trash is then used to create sculptures of animals that have been impacted by marine pollution.


Katie Dougherty, executive director of the Washed Ashore Project, said teams have collected more than 36 tons of plastic from the Oregon Coast alone which has been used to create 86 sculptures that are pieced together on a stainless-steel frame.

"We have the front end of a car on one of our sculptures, but the pacifiers, the baby shoes – all the things that are picked up along the beaches and are used as these recognizables," Dougherty said.

The goal is to educate people who visit the Washed Ashore gallery or one of the traveling exhibits about our habits and how they affect marine life.

"It just really provokes the thought, when you see this discarded plastic that you don’t realize is in our systems and being consumed by our sea life," she said.

According to the Washed Ashore website, volunteers have spent more than 14,000 hours cleaning more than 300 miles of beaches.

To find an exhibit location, visit