a day out with kids, trash and plastic

On Wednesday I went with Juniordwarf’s class on an excursion all about rubbish.

The other parents who had volunteered for this task joined the class and one of the older classes in the morning for a walk to Salamanca. Moving 50+ kids in a walking train is no easy feat, especially when you have to get them across major roads safely. It is, however, considerably easier than moving a group of 5 and 6 year olds. Trust me, I’ve done this too.

The classes split up when we got to Salamanca, and after a quick fruit break, we headed into the Art from Trash exhibition in the Long Gallery.

This was the last day of the exhibition, which I hadn’t realised or I’d have gone to have a look last week. Run by the Resource Work Cooperative, Art From Trash is “an annual community event that encourages the reuse of discarded materials in the production of visual art”. The Resource Work Cooperative, among other things, run the South Hobart Tip Shop.

The exhibition has been held each year since 1995 and its aim is to promote reuse and to get people thinking about the amount of stuff they throw away.


There were some fascinating exhibits. I was particularly drawn to the dress that included osso bucco bones. I love the fact that someone could look at bones and say, “hey that looks like lace,” and work out a way to use them as lace. I later found out that the artist, Diana Eaton, is a local Derwent Valley artist.

Fashion from Food
Fashion from Food

There were some really cool things in the exhibit. I loved the repurposed shoes. Juniordwarf wondered if they were like Cinderella’s glass slippers. I think they probably were.

Shoes and Vegetables
Shoes and Vegetables

The kids were given a task to draw something. Juniordwarf decided to draw the vegetable garden that one of the Hobart primary schools had created.

A couple of the kids chose to draw this piece called “A Waterless Garden” by Alan Culph, which I quite liked too, so I tried to draw it as well. I didn’t have much time, and I think they did a better job than I did. (In my defence, I was standing up when I did it and I didn’t have anything to rest my notebook on!)

A Waterless Garden by Alan Culph
A Waterless Garden by Alan Culph

After we’d finished at Art from Trash, we wandered over to the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, to have a look at the Vanishing Point exhibition.

This exhibition is “an arts/science collaboration to raise awareness about the issues surrounding plastics pollution in the oceans and its ecological, biological and social impact”.

We met Dr Heidi Auman, who talked about the impact of plastic in the ocean and on the birds and animals that ingest it, and how it’s working its way up the food chain, as the larger animals eat the smaller animals that have eaten small plastic fragments. It’s heartbreaking to hear about how mother albatross will eat plastic items that look like the food they normally eat, feed it to their chicks who then fill up on plastic and die because they aren’t hungry and don’t eat.

And a lot of this plastic is single-use plastic that something’s packaged in and thrown away as soon as we open the packet. It doesn’t decompose, just breaks down (eventually) into smaller pieces of plastic so smaller animals will eat it.

The exhibition came about because there’s a lot of science on the effects of plastic, but it’s often hard to present a scientific message to the public that isn’t too overwhelming or complicated. The concept was to present the ideas through art that would get people’s attention. “By combining this skill of the artist with the knowledge of the scientist, it’s possible to engage viewers through visual beauty and simplicity, then lead them through a deeper story to raise awareness of the issue at hand.”

Plastic not fantastic
Plastic not fantastic

According to the exhibition website,  8 million items of litter enter the marine environment every day – and around 7 billion tonnes of plastic gets into the ocean every year. 7 billion tonnes! My mind can’t even begin to imagine that much stuff. It’s just too big a number. It is estimated that 3 times as much rubbish is dumped into the world’s oceans annually as the weight of fish caught. Horrific.

Heidi has  written a book, “Garbage Guts”, to help children to understand some of the issues and to encourage them to think about their use of plastic and the effects that it can have on our marine life. The class asked some interesting questions afterwards, ranging from how long it took her to write the book (about a year) to how long have plastics been a problem (it all started in the 1950s but has increased exponentially since then).

The exhibition is running at the Institute until mid-July.

I was talking about it later, and one of my school mum friends mentioned the Plastic-free July challenge,  where you attempt to eliminate your use of single-use plastic during July. Another challenge I found online was an ongoing challenge called the Plastic Trash Challenge, where you begin by behaving normally for the first week so that you become aware of how much plastic you actually buy, and then work on reducing that.

I think this is a fantastic idea, and I’m going to do it. I’ll enlist Juniordwarf to help as well. The first week will be interesting.

The final part of the excursion was an A-Z treasure hunt around Salamanca Square. I was assigned to be a bouncer on one of the laneways to make sure none of the kids escaped. According to the role call at the end of the morning, I was successful.

All in all it was a very rewarding day that I’m glad to have been able to be a part of.