Trash, Trash Everywhere

Earth Day Trash Art Activity

Trash, Trash Everywhere

Discovery Place Nature

There is trash on the top of Mount Everest, at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, floating in outer space and scientists have even found it inside of human blood and organs. Products that are not biodegradable–specifically plastics–are not only harmful to wildlife, but pollute our water, soil and air and cause health problems.

When these products are burned, their emissions can produce acid rain. Instead of breaking down, plastics break up into smaller and smaller pieces until they become microplastics that are nearly impossible to remove from the environment, oftentimes ending up in the food and drinks we consume.

Ground Trash

A Global Problem

Single-use products end up in our waterways, make their way to the ocean and either collect on the surface or sink to the ocean floor affecting wildlife. Sea turtles confuse plastic bags with jellyfish and large patches of trash in the ocean block out the sunlight needed by the plankton and algae below.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which spans approximately 1.6 million square kilometers, is so far from the coastline that no nation will take responsibility for it or fund its cleaning. Many individuals and organizations have become dedicated to the cause, creating innovative technology aimed at preventing growth of the patch, but a collective global effort will be necessary to save the Earth from the consequences of consumer waste products.

Ocean Trash

What You Can Do to Help

How can you help? Attend cleanup groups in your community, avoid plastic consumption, avoid single-use products, reuse goods, recycle as often as possible and begin learning about how you can reduce your carbon footprint. Check out some of the links below to get started!

Recycle Your Trash into Art

Learning Time: 10-20 minutes

Activity Time: 30-45 minutes

Age Range: Elementary and up

Materials List:

  • A bucket
  • Gloves
  • Dish soap
  • Glue
  • Canvas, foam board, poster or paper to adhere your plastic to
  • Trash items


1. First and foremost, know that you do not have to make art out of your trash. Simply removing waste from the ground and discarding it properly is a wonderful thing in and of itself. This activity is meant to provide a creative way to turn trash into something more. Young readers should have an adult assisting them throughout the find and make process.

2. Grab some gloves and a bucket to collect your trash in. Some may find it handy to have a grabber-claw device to pick up trash, but it is not necessary.

3. Decide on a location. Sometimes there are local organized meetup events dedicated to picking up trash. Otherwise, you can go to a park, a trail, a beach, a parking lot or simply take a walk down the street in your neighborhood.

4. It is important to remember to be safe when picking up trash. If something appears hazardous, contact your local waste management service to have it removed.

5. Once you have filled up a bucket of trash, it is time to sort it. If you do not plan on turning your trash into art, please recycle plastic, glass, aluminum cans, paper and cardboard.

6. If turning trash into art, it is a good idea to clean the trash using dish soap.

7. Once trash is clean and dry, it is time to plan how you want the pieces to come together in your creation. We used string, plastic buttons, colorful plastic shards and broken pottery on this canvas below.

We didn’t know exactly how we were going to bring the items together when we started; everything fell into place as we made it. You can plan everything out like puzzle pieces or let your creation flow organically.

Earth day trash art

8. Before gluing everything down, decide if you want to paint your canvas or paper first. The string and buttons we found were all blue and we thought blue paint would make a nice background.

9. Begin gluing your trash down piece by piece. This may take some concentration and patience, but the result can be really beautiful!


Want to see more art like this? Check out artwork by Hannah Tizedes – “The Trashy Collection” made up of thousands of plastics/microplastics she found along the shoreline of the Great Lakes in Michigan.

Hannah Tizedes Art

Share your Earth Day trash artwork with us by tagging @discoveryplacescience and @discoveryplacenature on Facebook or Instagram!