The United States spends an estimated $11.5 billion each year on litter cleanup, according to Keep America Beautiful, indicating that litter remains a major environmental woe.
Based in Hollywood, Fla., the virtual Museum of Litter features artwork made with collected litter in an effort to draw attention to the problem as well as to fund education and awareness campaigns to stop it in its tracks.
“There are many problems on the planet — but litter doesn’t have to be one of them,” the organization writes on its website. “It’s easily solvable. First we need to all get on the same page: we need to acknowledge that it’s a problem.”
The organization hosts park and beach cleanups to collect litter, but the core of its mission is prevention. In an effort that the museum says is “kind of like Greenpeace meets the Dalai Lama,” artists create innovative work using collected litter and sell it in the museum’s gift shop to raise funds for awareness campaigns.
Collected litter ranges from cigarette butts and plastic waste to personal hygiene products and children’s toys. Most of the litter is collected from shorelines, but some artwork — like a piece made with cigarette litter from Yellowstone National Park — is also made with waste collected at other public places.
“When we pick up litter, we document it with photos, blog commentary and tweets, rather than just throwing it away, so it’s not ‘out of sight, out of mind,'” the organization writes on its website. “We blog, tweet, give talks, create art upcycled from litter, do art shows and hold community events to promote awareness of the importance of zero litter.”
Feature photo: Angels made from discarded cigarettes and food packaging waste; Museum of Litter