Cleaning rubbish in the name of art!

How and why I found myself cleaning rubbish

This year I am aiming to volunteer for Thames 21 at least once a month. The clean up I had planned to attend for May was cancelled. I saw a request for help with cleaning rubbish collected on Thames 21 clean ups for an art project. This was a wonderful example of synchronicity, as I am passionate about reducing plastic waste and cleaning up the environment. The project aims to highlight to the public, and young people, how much rubbish, especially plastic, ends up in the Thames.  Whilst giving practical advice on how to help prevent it.

Cleaning the plastic, piece by piece!

Artist Maria Arceo has been on over 40 clean ups on the length of the Thames with volunteers, and on her own. Collecting, cleaning and catelouging the waste. Demonstrating how many of the different culprits (cotton buds, pens, lighters, bottles etc) are found at each sites. It is not all the same mix, as you might think.


The Thames Plastic Art Project at Sommerset House

All this week (7-11 June 2017) school children are visiting the Thames Plastic Lab as part of their ciriculum, and the public are also invited to participate. All are assisting in the creation of the final sculpture on the terrace at Somerset House. This will involve sorting the waste by colour and type. Creating a visually appealing and intriguing collection, rather than a jumbled mess. Maria is artist in residence at Kings College London. They have been heavily involved in the project via the Georgraphy, Chemistry, and other departments.  The Chemistry department have set up a mobile lab on the terrace in which the public can take plastic to be analysised and understand what is in it.

Details of the Thames Plastic Lab at Somerset House

What happens next

If you can’t get to Somerset house this week then there will be other opportunities to see the final sculpture, and learn more about the project. It will be on tour as part of the Totally Thames Festival in September (1-30). I will be posting an update about the creation of the sculpture, and where it is going to be when.

For more information about the research Kings are carrying out on plastic dispersal in the Thames.

Do you want to help clean up and improve London’s waterways? It’s lots of fun and very satisfying. Check out the Thames 21 events page. You don’t have to book for most events. Many are suitable for children, as long as they are accompanied by a responsible adult.


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