Turning Trash into Treasure with Ocean Art

Marine debris has reached meteoric levels in the last few years. Some creative artists are shining a spotlight on the issue by turning trash into ocean art.

Marine debris has reached meteoric levels over the last decade. But sensing opportunity, some creative people are shining a light on this issue by turning trash into ocean art. Many forms of expression have emerged, from murals to sculptures. Here are a few unique examples of trash that’s become treasure.

Claudio Garzon

Los Angeles-based Claudio Garzon combs the rivers and ocean that surround the city. He collects gleaming pieces of steel, plastic and other garbage to educate the youth of California as well as those further afield of the issues that threaten the world’s waters. Many influential platforms, such as Discovery Channel and National Geographic have featured Garzon’s work. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has two of his pieces, portraying a turtle and a jellyfish, on display as well.


Two young entrepreneurs, Alex Cooper and Andrew Schulze, have become marine heroes over the last year. The pair decided to create 4Ocean after a surf trip to Bali, which enlightened them to the devastating amount of plastic in the ocean. The ocean was so polluted in various places that mantas were filter- feeding the plastic itself.  After conducting daily clean–ups alone, the 4Ocean grew so quickly that they now have workshops and employ over 150 people worldwide.

With headquarters in Florida and Bali, the team creates bracelets from the very same ocean garbage they clean up. Each bracelet they sell funds the removal of one pound of trash from the ocean and coastline. Since its inception, 4Ocean has removed close to 1.3 million pounds of trash from the ocean.

Taylor Lane

Some ocean artists choose to highlight an overlooked issue in a particularly creative way. This is the case with industrial designer Taylor Lane, who entered the “Creators and Innovators Upcycle Contest,” hosted by the Vissla surfing brand, with a surfboard made from cigarette butts. After spending so much time in the water, Lane realized the effect that trash had on his playground and decided to express his dismay through this surfboard that would eventually win the competition. One judge commented that the sad truth was that something so beautifully made had such a wretched underlying meaning. 

Angela Haseltine Pozzi

The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans is currently hosting ‘Washed Ashore: Art to save the Sea,’ by artist Angela Haseltime Pozzi. The exhibit features six huge sealife sculptures made entirely of marine debris collected from beaches, including a gigantic great white shark. Pozzi grew up in Oregon, where she frequently saw trash washing up on local beaches. Since the 2010 inception of ‘Washed Ashore,’ up to 10,000 volunteers have helped clear the Oregon shores and inspired others to do the same elsewhere.