This was originally posted on the Cornish Seal Sanctuary blog:
We are currently in the middle of half term at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary and visitors are enjoying seeing all our usual faces, as well as the many pups that are currently in the process of rehabilitation.
But we have also got an exciting new attraction for visitors to see. At reception, renowned Cornish artist and environmentalist, Rob Arnold, is exhibiting his work ‘Plastic Pollution’. The exhibition compromises works created from Rob’s many beach cleans. The aim is to educate people about the horrific devastation that is being caused by plastic in our oceans, which is killing marine life, including seals. In fact it is estimated that 1 million sea birds and over 100,000 marine mammals are thought to lose their lives due to ocean rubbish annually.
Rob became passionate after a documentary about albatross dying after ingesting plastic aired. This inspired him to try and make a difference and he became a prolific beach cleaner. His Facebook page displays the incredible amount of plastics he has found; including over 3 million nurdles and pieces of microplastic from just one beach clean. In fact, he has even built a machine which helps to sort through plastic, separating the rubbish from the sand.
“I can’t bear to see animals suffering and dying from the way we’re polluting the planet and destroying their environment,” Rob says. “We humans have the intelligence and technology now to preserve all the beautiful life forms that we share this planet with, but instead, we’re selfishly destroying it for them, but ultimately for us too.”
From all of Rob’s finds, he has created some incredible pieces, which look fantastic but actually hide a darker message. Among the art being displayed at the sanctuary is Rob’s exhibition namesake ‘Plastic Pollution’; a sad scene of the damage being done to the ocean created entirely out of white plastic finds, a piece about lost Lego and a scene involving toy soldiers which have been in the sea for over 30 years.
One exhibition is a prawn made entirely of orange and red plastic pieces. “Microplastics contain practically no orange or red” Rob says, “this is because fish eat them, mistaking the colours for food particles and therefore, not finding the microplastic indicates they are already in the food chain”.
Another incredible part of Rob’s finds on display are plastic rocks. These mysterious rocks were introduced to the seal sanctuary team last year by Rob when we met him during a photographic event in St Ives. Since meeting him, the team have been finding their own plastic rocks during beach cleans at local beaches, which we are now using as part of an activity at our rock pool. In Rob’s exhibition, there is a case filled with hundreds of plastic rocks and one real one – but can you tell it apart? The plastic rocks are utterly shocking and what is scarier, is that no one is exactly sure what they are, however it is suspected to be possibly from burnt plastic that has entered the sea.
These are just some of Rob’s works currently on display and the exhibition will be remaining at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary for the rest of 2018. “I spend a lot of time removing plastic litter from our beaches to try and reduce the human impact on sea life, but I feel that no amount of beach cleaning with solve the problem. In fact, in a way it hides the problem. So this is why I create my art with the litter I collect, to raise awareness and show people just how bad things have gotten. Maybe then, they will make some simple changes to their lifestyle and behaviour to reduce plastic pollution at the source.”
So what can you do to help?
Plastic is a really big problem in our oceans and something we need to tackle together. So what can you do to reduce the amount of litter in our oceans?
Try and select products with less plastic – single use plastic makes up around 50% of the plastic we use. Use refillable drinks bottles, avoid plastic straws, use cotton tote bags instead of plastic and choose a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one.
Don’t drop litter – anywhere. It is thought around 80% of ocean litter has originally been dropped on the land, then enters the sea via drains, rivers or the wind, so always ensure you dispose of it correctly.
Recycle – try and reuse or recycle everything you can to ensure it doesn’t end up in landfill.
Check your beauty bag – make up wipes are clogging up our drains and microbeads have been making their way into our oceans and up our food chains. Try and use products which are better for the environment and dispose of everything correctly.
Pick up any litter that you can – all litter can cause a problem, so if you see it, pick it up and dispose of it correctly.
Join a beach clean – the more we can get out of the ocean, the better! Pick up litter when you are at the beach or check out your local wildlife groups to join them in organised beach cleans. Check out our Facebook page to join our latest beach clean.