Thirza Schaap: Plastic Ocean Art

Thirza Schaap has been working on a personal art project that has a unique way of creating awareness around consumption and pollution. Instead of showing diagrams and charts about facts on the amount of plastic bags used worldwide or how harmful they are to the ocean and human life, she instead collects debris found on beaches and creates tasteful art sculptures out of them.

Her works of art, which are photographed in her own garden, have a faded, pastel-colored beauty to them. She makes trash pleasing to the eye and not repulsive. But this is a contradiction to the ugly truth which is that more than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the oceans every year. She hopes viewers who purchase her art prints will be reminded to use less plastic the next time they are at the groceries.

When do you think you’ll consider this project will be considered done?

“The project is done when I don’t find any plastic on the beaches anymore. I went through a tough awareness these past years and found a way which I can think I can make people remember daily to choose to use less plastic. We are selling the pictures from €125 for art handprint, imagine having a picture on your wall as a friendly reminder to maybe use less plastic the next time you do groceries.”

Do you have an idea what you want to shoot when you’re at the beach or do you bring the objects back first then create?

“No not at all, what I do is bring them back, dry them, then starting making the composition.”

Besides not throwing trash on the beach, is there another way people can stop plastic waste?

“Throwing trash on the beach is just a small part of it, we should realize that when you throw something in a trash can or even the recycle bin, it is not gone and that the problem is not solved. In Sweden, more than 99 percent of all household waste is recycled in one way or another. This means that the country has gone through something of a recycling revolution in the last decades, considering that only 38 percent of household waste was recycled in 1975. I think the rest of the world has to go through that still.”

What objects do you find the most abundant out there?

“Straws, and the plastic sticks of cotton buds. Small pallets there has been a massive spill of polypropylene plastic pellets.”

Do you have help when picking you’re out there?

“I am helped by Braz my husband, he helps by picking up the trash with me and driving me to different beaches. He also helped make the website and spreading the word online.”

What have you learned from this experience? What’s been the most rewarding points for you?

“That we were brought up in a society of materialism. I like to reuse, we actually get almost all our household from the second-hand market, which doesn’t mean you cannot have a nice house. We’ve actually been featured in the Dutch Vogue magazine on our house and recycled goods. It just takes a bit more patience to collect everything you need.”

Is there a foundation/website that you know helps with this issue? Or do you personally have tips of your own?

“Well, there are worldwide beach cleanups. There’s the Seabin Project from Australia and of course The Ocean Cleanup.

I believe in the mass, so all which in your power you can do helps, And I will not judge anyone, you know yourself what is within your capability. But of course, the big players like Unilever, Coca-Cola, Colgate should decide to adjust their designs of packaging, and use biodegradable materials.

Some good tips I can offer is this; to consider is to think every time you want to buy something if you really need it. Repair what you have. Go the market with your basket to get your veggies and refuse single-use plastics.”

Written by Yung Tsai. Photos © Thirza Schaap.
Follow Thirza Schaap on her Instagram account. Visit her website for more work and info.

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