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Turning 315 billion pounds of plastic ocean pollution into sea-saving art

July 12, 2016 at 6:15 PM EDT
At the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, a massive exhibit made entirely of 315 pounds of plastic pollution fished from the Pacific is on display. Called "Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea," it features 17 sculptures, from jellyfish to shark. The lesson? The ocean's deadliest predator is trash. In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, Julia Griffin pays the plastic sea creatures a visit.
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NewsHour shares web small logoIn our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to our “NewsHour” Shares, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you, too.

Seventeen larger-than-life sea creatures have taken up residence in the nation’s capital this summer.

The “NewsHour”‘s Julia Griffin recently paid them a visit.

JULIA GRIFFIN: Octavia the octopus, Priscilla the parrot fish, and Flash the marlin, all sculptures now on display at Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and all made of trash pulled from the Pacific Ocean.

ANGELA HASELTINE POZZI, Lead Artist and Executive Director, Washed Ashore: All of this is garbage off the beaches.

JULIA GRIFFIN: Angela Haseltine Pozzi is the lead artist and executive director of Washed Ashore, a nonprofit seeking to educate the public on the plastics polluting the word’s oceans.

ANGELA HASELTINE POZZI: We create sculptures that can teach people about the problem. And, as an artist, it is a real challenge to use everything that comes up off the beach.

JULIA GRIFFIN: In six years, Haseltine Pozzi and her team of volunteers have created 66 sculptures from more than 38,000 pounds of debris collected from a stretch of Oregon’s coastline.

The countless bottle caps, flip-flops and beach toys are just a fraction of the more than 315 billion pounds of plastic estimated to be in the world’s oceans. Such plastics not only pose entanglement threats to Marine animals, but are often mistaken for food.

SYDNEY BESON, Zoo Visitor: I think it’s a really different way to show the message, because, in the art, there were things that you would never expected to be washed on the ocean. There was a million lighters and all these different things that were really surprising to find.

DEBBIE HASTINGS, Zoo Visitor: I thought it was lovely, really colorful, and eye-catching. And it actually makes you think about the waste that’s in the sea and just how much there is.

LUKE, Zoo Visitor: You can’t put trash in the ocean because it will hurt animals.

JULIA GRIFFIN: As scientists debate how to clean the water, Haseltine Pozzi hopes her sculptures will inspire visitors to curb pollution in the first place.

For the “PBS NewsHour,” from the National Zoo, I’m Julia Griffin.

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