California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium in 2018 built a life-sized blue whale art installation from discarded single-use plastic. According to Guinness World Records 2020, the whale structure is the world’s largest supported recycled plastic sculpture. (See the Bruges plastic whale below.)

Every nine minutes, 300,000 pounds of plastic—the weight of a blue whale—makes its way into the ocean. Monterey Bay Aquarium built a massive plastic whale to draw attention to the enormous and continually growing problem of ocean plastic pollution.

The whale is made mostly of single-use plastic trash: Grocery bags, milk jugs, laundry detergent containers, bubble wrapping, produce bags, etc. Workers spent months collecting, sorting, cleaning, shredding, heating, and molding the plastic to create the whale. In contrast, the Bruges whale (image below) was created from intact plastic marine debris.

In 2016, the United States produced more plastic waste than any other nation. Without enough resources to recycle all of the plastic, the only solution is to reduce plastic consumption.

If we don’t turn the tide, the amount of plastic in the ocean is projected to double by 2025. Since 1950, we have produced 8 billion tons of plastic. 6.3 billion tons have been discarded. Of that amount, only 9% has been recycled.

A new report by Oceana, a conservation group, found that in 90 percent of reported cases, animals had swallowed plastic, and the rest were entangled in it. Necropsies often showed that animals had died from blockages or lacerations. Over all, in 82 percent of the cases, the animals died.

Scientists estimate that by 2050, over 90 percent of seabirds — including pelicans, herons and seagulls— will have accidentally eaten plastic at least once.

Bruges, Belgium wanted to address how cities from across the globe are contributing to plastic waste that washes up on our shores and endangers and kills marine life. The city commissioned this 38-foot plastic whale sculpture designed by Brooklyn-based architecture and design firm StudioKCA. It is composed from over five tons of plastic pulled from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, which translated into 4,000 square feet of plastic waste for the 10,000-pound whale.