Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Trash to Treasure

Danville, Virginia Girl Scouts create “bottle blooms” from discarded plastic bottles. The blooms are on display at the Danville Science Museum through February 2009.

The Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) has a new program combining trash, art and an environmental message. “iIMPACT: Speaking Out For Rivers Through Art & Action” is a basin-wide project to raise awareness of the impact of consumer waste on watersheds and wildlife. Since plastic is among the most detrimental of all consumer waste, iIMPACT puts a special emphasis on it. Participants pick up discarded materials—okay, trash—from sidewalks, parking lots, river banks, and then turn the material into “objet d’art”.

The participants-turned-artists fashion sculptures and paintings that range from the silly to surprisingly delightful. But what is really important is this: as a part of the creative process, they learn about the prolific and stubborn nature of plastic. These simple polymers simply refuse to biodegrade. That means that nearly all the plastic ever made still exists in some form, with dire consequences for both water and wildlife. (For an eye-popping interactive article about plastic and the environment, check out http://www.flypmedia.com/issues/03/#5/1). iIMPACT also explores the small, but growing, market for alternatives to oil-based plastic.

The art is then displayed in local venues along with educational panels that the artists help write. A youth 4H group in Stuart, Virginia serves in an advisory role to iIMPACT by testing out each art project idea (such as the “bottle blooms”). If the 4H students give it a pass, then that particular art form can be replicated with other groups the basin. Funding from the Virginia Environmental Endowment allows DRBA to offer iIMPACT for free. DRBA hopes to build quite a collection of trash art, enough to ultimately become part of a larger exhibition in 2009. Anyone who would like to help with the project is encouraged to call or email Jenny Edwards, DRBA staff at (276) 340-2462 or jedwards@danriver.org

Article and Photo by: Jenny Edwards

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