Our oceans, beaches and marine life are under threat from plastic pollution as never before – and the countdown to a potential full-scale environmental disaster has begun.
That’s the message three Kent artists, who have been friends since their university days, are pressing home with their second exhibition at a Thanet art gallery. They aim to increase awareness of the devastating and often deadly impact plastic pollution can have on our seas and marine life.
“U-Turn Now” – at Ramsgate’s York Street Gallery from now until June 12– is a follow-up to their exhibition at the same venue a year ago. Their first exhibition, ”SOS – Save Our Seas” – had a similar theme.
The three artists, Marilyn Orpin, Thel Findlay and Ba Stunt, all studied fine art degrees at Canterbury’s University for the Creative Arts. The three have something else in common. They all live near the sea – Marilyn at Minster on the Isle of Sheppey, Thel from Broadstairs and Ba from near Dover.
They have been working for months to create “U-Turn Now,” an exhibition of paintings, prints, collages and examples of objects found on Kent’s beaches.
Thel said: “We aim not only to showcase and celebrate our beautiful Kent coastline but also to demonstrate the impact locally of plastic pollution and the environmental damage being caused to our seas, beaches and marine and animal life.
“We want to highlight the continuing increase in the amount of littered plastic causing potentially irreparable harm.”
Marilyn said:” We feel it’s necessary for all of us to make a U-turn now, hence the title of our exhibition, because that’s the only way of ensuring we keep what we have. We must stop the tidal wave of plastic waste – and we can do that by beginning in our own homes.”
At the Orpins’ home on the Isle of Sheppey the clink of glass milk bottles can be heard each morning. No plastic supermarket milk containers for the Orpins.
“It’s only a small thing, and I know that having milk delivered is slightly more expensive, but it’s something we want to do. ” added Marilyn, “If everyone did something, however small, to cut down on the amount of plastic we use it would be a start.”
The artists say the devastating impact of plastic on marine life is horrific. It’s estimated that more than a million sea creatures, including mammals, fish, sharks, turtles and birds, are killed every year by plastic debris in our oceans. Around 100 million tons of plastic are thought to currently be polluting the world’s seas.
Kent has around 350 miles of coastline – more than any other county – and the amount of plastic debris strewn along some beaches or floating in the sea is fast becoming both an eyesore and an environmental danger
According to environmental campaign group Greenpeace, the equivalent of a truckload of plastic rubbish is dumped in our seas every minute. Plastic is now turning up in every corner of the globe, from Cornish beaches to uninhabited Pacific islands. It’s even been found trapped in the Arctic ice.
Greenpeace estimates that UK supermarkets produce about 800,000 tonnes of plastic packaging every year. The group is calling on big corporations and governments to create what it calls “closed loop systems” to enable materials to be recovered and re-used rather than be wasted.
Marilyn added: “Those statistics give some idea of the frightening scale of the problem. We hope as many people as possible will come along and look at our exhibition and that it will give them food for thought. If we can all cut back on the amount of plastic we use by just a couple of items a week, collectively across Kent it would make a difference.”
* U-Turn Now is on show at the York Street Gallery, 22 York Street, Ramsgate, until Wednesday, June 12.