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Washed Ashore: Art Exhibit at Hogle Zoo Emphasizes Plastic Reduction to Save Our Waterways

by SLCgreen intern Sarah Hogg

Today the Hogle Zoo launches a new animal exhibit, but these animals are a bit different from the rest.

The exhibit’s animals are made up plastic debris washed up on the shore of the Oregon coast. The colorful sculptures make a bold statement about plastic pollution in our oceans and its impact on marine life.

From May 24 to September 30, visitors to Salt Lake City’s Hogle Zoo will come face to face with fifteen sculptures built entirely out of plastic trash. The sculptures are located throughout the zoo grounds. 

Artist and art educator Angela Haseltine Possi created Washed Ashore to raise awareness about the detrimental effects of plastic within the ecosystem. Possi spent many summers on the beaches of Oregon when she was young, which fostered her love of nature. But over time, she noticed the massive amounts of plastic and trash that washed up on the shore. Possi decided to educate herself about plastic pollution and the impact it has on marine life. Her research inspired her to help in the way that she knew how—by creating art.

And so, the Washed Ashore Project was born. Volunteers who work on the Washed Ashore Project join forces to clean up beaches on the Oregon coast, process the debris, and then create the sculptures representing marine life. To this day, over 10,000 volunteers have contributed to this ongoing project.

The exhibit travels across the country to educate viewers about the dangers of plastic waste in our oceans to the marine life, and what they can do to help.

Each of the animals on display represents an animal impacted by marine debris. For example, one of the sculptures is a billowing jellyfish. Hungry sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish– a staple in their diet. The mistake can be deadly for the sea turtles. This piece serves to spark conversation about the negative impacts of plastic bags and the importance of reusable alternatives.

Jellyfish sculpture.

Another piece is the tail of a humpback whale, an animal that was once hunted almost to extinction. Luckily, thanks to consistent conservation efforts, the humpback whale made a comeback. The whale tail is a reminder for us to keep humpback whales and other animals from extinction and to keep up conservation efforts, because they can and do make a difference.

Whale tail sculpture.

Plastic On Utah Shores

Washed Ashore promotes reducing, reusing, and recycling of plastic waste.

But it doesn’t just impact oceans. Plastic pollution is a global issue that impacts life on every level, even in our local community.

Did you know that every three months, 2-3 tons of waste are pulled from the Jordan River? In fact, a recent collection netted 32 tons of garbage.

Over two-thirds of that waste consists of plastic bottles, according to Hogle Zoo and Salt Lake County.

As part of the Washed Ashore exhibit, the Hogle Zoo is asking guests to pledge to use their own reusable water bottles instead of buying disposable bottles to help preserve our natural environment and help local wildlife.

More Ways to Reduce Plastic

While plastic pollution on a global scale may seem daunting, there are many simple changes we can make in our day to day lives that will help make a difference in the long run.

  • Minimize plastic consumption: Plastic never really “goes away.” So try to seek out alternatives to plastic as much as possible.
  • Recycle right: Plastic containers go in the blue curbside containers. Plastic film and bags should go back to the grocery store.
  • Bring your own reusable bottle: Water bottles are a large source of plastic pollution. Bringing your own bottle is a great way to stay hydrated and keep plastics out of the ocean.
  • Choose reusable mugs and cups: While reusable water bottles are a well-known way to save plastic bottles, not everyone thinks of bringing their own mugs or tumblers. Coffee shops are happy to put your morning joe into a mug you bring.
  • Bring reusable shopping bags: Salt Lake City no longer accepts plastic bags in recycling bins, so bringing your own bags on your grocery run is the best way to avoid plastic bags reaching the landfill, or our waterways. Also, bringing a canvas bag is a great option when shopping.

Overall, refusing single use plastics such as plastic bottles, cutlery, bags, etc. is best way for us to keep plastic waste out of our oceans and to save marine life.

Visit Washed Ashore at Hogle Zoo

Plastic pollution is an issue that isn’t going away anytime soon. Washed Ashore uses a colorful multitude of underwater sea creatures to show us the impact of plastic on the larger scale. Visit Hogle Zoo this summer to see these fantastic plastic sculptures and learn more about what you can do to help reduce plastic pollution.

The Washed Ashore exhibit will be on display at the Hogle Zoo from May 24 to September 30. More details are available at www.hoglezoo.org.

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