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Trawler Trash artwork

Trawler Trash, which is now on display in the Environment and Sustainability Institute.

Young Cornish students help create unique artwork

‘Trawler Trash’ a unique installation created by artist Liz Franklin and Cornish Yr 10 students has been unveiled at the University of Exeter's Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) on the Penryn Campus.

Liz developed the concept of Trawler Trash, a large abstract mural constructed from beach waste, and was helped in its production by 100 young people from secondary schools across Cornwall, who attended the ESI's Environment and Sustainability Day in April.

The mural has been made from marine waste collected by the beach cleaning volunteers from Rame Peninsula Beach Care, and is just a fraction of the 800 sacks of plastic waste the group has removed from a tiny slice of the South East Cornish coast over the past 12 months. 

Liz said: “The impact of plastic on marine life is huge and we’re only starting to wake up to how serious it really is. The idea of this mural is quite apocalyptic – imagining a time in the future when fishermen may catch only plastic instead of fish. The large eye of the mackerel, which can also be viewed as a ticking clock, further conveys the idea of a 'countdown'.”

Trawler Trash is not intended to specifically label the fishing industry as a primary source of marine plastic pollution; it conveys the idea of the throwaway culture that is responsible for so much of the vast and growing marine waste problem. Waste used in the mural includes net, rope, spacer stakes from mussel farms, glowsticks used in longline fisheries, fragments of broken fishing crates, cable ties, shotgun cartridge cases, toothbrushes and cigarette lighters.

If marina fauna consume large amounts of plastic it can kill them by blocking their guts, marine turtles and seabirds are particularly at risk. Research at the ESI is ongoing to understand how these chemicals might impact marine species that accidently consume plastics and the consequences for creatures higher up the food chain.  

Today, many fishermen view their role as responsible stewards of the sea, doing their best to help protect the marine environment and their own industry. The Fishing for Litter scheme, which has operated since 2009 in some Cornish ports, has allowed those involved in the fishing industry to collect well over 50 tonnes of marine waste, trawled up in nets, back to port for safe disposal. 

Trawler Trash will be exhibited in the ESI throughout the summer (free entry, 09:00 -17:00, Monday to Friday).

The ESI is working with businesses and enterprises across all sectors of the economy in Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and beyond to translate research and expertise into innovative business practices, products and services in order to respond to the challenges of environmental change. It has been funded by the European Regional Development Fund Convergence Programme (£22.9M) and the South West Regional Development Agency (£6.6M), with significant support from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Date: 18 June 2014