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"Trashion" statement: Mermaid wears littered drink containers to reveal impact of ocean pollution

Art activist trashes environmentalist/model in a dress made entirely of bottles and cans washed up on Australian beaches, to spotlight marine pollution and the importance of recycling.

18 May 2018

Environmentalist Laura Wells models the "trashion" mermaid creation by art activist Marina DeBris (image credit John Appleyard, Southern Courier)

(See the high-resolution versions of the following images. Watch the video introducing Marina DeBris and giving a peek behind the scenes of the trashion creation.)

Australian environmentalist and model Laura Wells has made waves as a plastic mermaid – in a dress made entirely of drink container litter collected from Sydney beaches. Designed by “trashion” artist Marina DeBris, the project seeks to highlight the importance of recycling and protecting our oceans following a new container deposit initiative aiming to reduce litter in Australia.

The mermaid dress was commissioned by TOMRA, whose reverse vending machines are used to collect empty drink containers for recycling in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) and 60+ markets worldwide. Under a container deposit scheme, consumers receive a refund after returning their empty containers for recycling.

The dress is composed entirely of washed up container litter that the award-winning artist picked up on her morning walks at Coogee Beach and Gordons Bay in Sydney. The dress is made of more than 60 plastic drink bottles, over 190 cans and over 90 bottle caps, re-fashioned into couture with a message.

Named “The Ones That Got Away”, the creation features containers that never found their way into the recycling system, but instead got littered and thrown away. The mermaid dress is the latest in Marina DeBris’ “trashion” series “Beach Couture: A Haute Mess”, which has been on show at Bondi’s Festival of the Winds and Sculptures by the Sea events.

MAKING A FASHION STATEMENT FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

Marine litter is an issue close to Laura Wells’ heart. As well as gracing magazines as one of Australia’s top plus-size models, Laura is an environmentalist with degrees in biology and law, and qualifications in environmental management. She has worked on environmental campaigns with The Boomerang Alliance, Greenpeace and the Marine Stewardship Council, and was vocal in the campaign to introduce the container deposit scheme in New South Wales.

“I am passionate about the climate, environment and our oceans, and really enthusiastic to see the positive impact the container deposit scheme will have on New South Wales,” explained Laura Wells. “I have worked with Marina DeBris in the past and was excited to bring her latest creation to life for such an important cause.”

Image of Marina DeBris tweaking her mermaid trashion creation

Marina DeBris’ trashion creations have featured in Los Angeles fashion shows and even in exhibits at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. “This piece seeks to shine a light on plastic pollution and how we can all make an impact by recycling our containers properly. Carelessly discarding bottles and aluminum cans not only destroys the beauty of our state, but can be harmful to local wildlife, and to ourselves.”

Image of mermaid lying in rock pool

“Laura Wells and Marina DeBris’ efforts in drawing attention to litter prevention and ocean conservation truly get to the heart of what the container deposit scheme aims to achieve,” said Ryan Buzzell, President of TOMRA Collection Australia. “The new container deposit scheme here is the biggest litter reduction initiative in the history of New South Wales, and will have an enormous impact on reducing the amount of rubbish on our beaches, streets and waterways.”

Images of mermaid standing in rock pool

Prior to the launch of the NSW “Return and Earn” container deposit scheme, drink containers made up 44% of the volume of all litter across the state. NSW recyclers take part by returning an eligible drink container to Return and Earn collection points, including TOMRA reverse vending machines, to claim their refund. The empty glass and plastic bottles, cans and liquid paperboard cartons can then be reused and recycled, to contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable future.

“I often say I wish this would end tomorrow: there would be no more single-use items or pollution, and that I would stop thinking about it and I would move on to something else,” reflects Marina DeBris in the behind-the-scenes video about the making of the mermaid trashion creation. “I have to say I don’t think I’ll ever stop. As long as it’s out there, I’m not going to be able to walk by it.” 

About Laura Wells:

Laura Wells is an environmentalist, presenter and one of Australia’s top plus-size models. Holding degrees in both Biology and Law, qualifications in Environmental management systems and currently studying a Diploma of Paramedical Science, Laura’s passion for the environment, love for the ocean and interest in climate change has led her to become a positive role model, advocate and ambassador for change. Visit https://laurawells.com.au/.

About Marina DeBris:

Marina DeBris is an Australia-based artist whose work focuses on reusing trash to raise awareness of ocean and beach pollution. DeBris uses trash washed up from the beach to create trashion, sculpture, and other works of art. Her recent piece titled the ”Inconvenience Store” (now on view at Taronga Zoo) secured awards at this year’s Sculpture by the Sea, including a tie for the Allens People’s Choice Award. As well as creating art from litter, DeBris also is a fund raiser for environmental organizations, and collaborates with non-profit organizations and schools to educate children about ocean pollution. DeBris is also a social activist, and has participated in a panel on how artists can contribute to environmental public policy, promoting clean energy and curating eco-art exhibitions.

About TOMRA Cleanaway:

TOMRA Cleanaway is the joint venture between TOMRA and Cleanaway, Australia’s leading waste management, recycling and industrial services company. TOMRA Cleanaway was appointed as the Network Operator of the Return and Earn scheme and is responsible for the collection infrastructure across NSW and for ensuring that collected containers are recycled.

About TOMRA Collection Solutions:

Founded in 1972, TOMRA is the preferred partner for reverse vending solutions for collecting cans and bottles for reuse and recycling. The TOMRA system has the machines, digital solutions and service to make recycling easy for the industry, system owners, retailers and consumers. With over 82,000 installations across more than 60 markets, TOMRA’s reverse vending machines capture 35 billion used beverage containers every year – reducing reliance on raw materials and ensuring fewer containers end up in landfills, oceans and streets. Visit our Reverse Vending pages on www.tomra.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

TOMRA Collection Solutions is part of the TOMRA Group, which creates sensor-based solutions for optimal resource productivity, and has a vision to lead the Resource Revolution. The Group employs approximately 3,400 people globally and is publicly listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange (OSE: TOM).