Flotsam… Getting to Grips with Plastic Pollution


Galway 2020’s Small Towns Big Ideas project, Flotsam, held the first of its school sculpture building workshops last week, creating a sculpture created from plastic found on a recent beach clean-up.

Run by Oranmore Arts Festival, Flotsam brings together schools, community groups and scientists to raise awareness of the problem of plastic pollution, and through this, to encourage the community to get involved in finding a solution.

Flotsam has been reconnecting the community with its coastline over the last number of months. A beach clean-up was held at Rinville Beach in September as part of Clean Coasts Big Beach Clean weekend, with around 60 people coming along to help. From this, and a few other beach cleans at Rinville by individuals and small groups, a large amount of plastic was collected which was then sorted and cleaned, ready to be used in the sculpture project.

In November, Flotsam, along with Garry Kendellen from Galway Atlantaquaria, visited three Oranmore primary schools, giving talks to the children about the problem of marine plastic, and the changes each of them could make to help improve the situation. “The children responded really well to the talks, and several parents reported back to me that their youngsters (even the pre-schoolers) were coming home with information about what they had learned and were even encouraging their parents to reduce their plastic consumption,” says organiser Eleanor Leadbetter.

“Only by inspiring and educating can we hope to make a difference to an issue which is spiraling out of control.”

This month, workshops in each of the schools were introduced to design and build a sculpture in response to what they had heard in the talk in November. Facilitators from Toodlelou Creativity Lab led the workshops, helping the children to focus their ideas into a cohesive design with a definite message, then assisting them with the practical challenges of using the plastics to realise their design.

Gaelscoil de Híde completed their sculpture last week, with Scoil Mhuire and School Iósaif Naofa in the process of designing their sculptures at the moment.

“Through this project, we hope to foster a sense of ownership of the coastline among local people, as well as collecting plastic waste as the raw materials for the sculpture project,” says Eleanor, adding,

“The problem of plastic waste in our seas is not going to disappear on its own. Only by inspiring and educating can we hope to make a difference to an issue which is spiralling out of control. Through Flotsam we believe we can make a change to Oranmore, and in time maybe that change can spread further afield.”