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Plastic bottle fish in Rio a drop in the sea of plastic waste

4th October 2012


Plastic Bottle Fish in Rio – a Drop in the Sea of Plastic Waste



The giant fish sculptures that rise up out of the sand at a beach in Rio de Janeiro are a breathtaking sight to see, dwarfing passersby and glowing a brilliant purple at night.

Yet these fish are more than just a work of art; crafted entirely from discarded polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles, the sculptures tell onlookers of a much gloomier story about how much plastic waste we’re pouring into the sea each year, polluting the water and killing the real fish inside.


Image: Alexandre Macieira|Riotur


Scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography carried out a study in 2009 with shocking results – that the concentration of plastic waste in the ocean was a massive one hundred times greater than just forty years previously.

In fact, things have got so bad that an enormous, poisonous ‘soup’ of seawater and rubbish has formed out at sea... twice the size of France.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch as it is known is estimated to contain 3million tons of waste, stretching 10 metres down under the water. It a truly colossal floating mass of “bottle caps, toothbrushes, Styrofoam cups, detergent bottles” and even more besides – basically every bit of non-biodegradable plastic you’ve ever thrown away.




“Recycle your attitudes”. Image: Alexandre Macieira|Riotur


Californian sailor Charles Moore, who originally discovered the Garbage Patch, found that around 80% of the plastic contaminating the sea was originally discarded on land, so it’s not just the (equally harmful) landfills that your household rubbish ends up in.

When you consider that every living thing on the planet requires a regular supply of fresh water to survive, the problem becomes all the more urgent and terrifying. Marine life are choking on plastic they can’t digest, and chemicals from plastic are entering the human food chain, likely affecting you even if you don’t eat the contaminated fish directly.



Plastics taken from the bellies of seabirds in just one week. Image Source


From the Rio fish installation to Moore’s work, the message is not to stop using plastic, just to start using it more responsibly.

We drink 200 billion litres of bottled water a year, yet only 20% of those bottles are ever recycled. The Rio fish may be a great alternative to throwing those bottles away, but they’re a tiny drop in the sea of bottles and other plastics being tipped into our oceans every day.

So next time you are about to throw an old toothbrush or a plastic bag in the bin, stop and take it to your local recycling centre instead. Mother Nature will take potentially tens of thousands of years to clean up the mess we’ve poured into her seas already, so there really is no better time to change than right now.


Have you created a stunning work of art from recycled plastics, or done something to help recycling in your local community? Tell us in the comments below and we may feature you in our blog!

Posted in: Recycling Ideas2 Comments

2 comments for "Plastic bottle fish in Rio a drop in the sea of plastic waste"

  • Robiodo wrote on November 22nd 2012 @ 09:37am

    Thank you for your positive comments on recycling. It is a welcome relief after all the hysteria about banning bags, bottles and even all plastics. The conversation about recycling has gotten way too quiet.

    And those fish are fantastic!

  • Louise wrote on October 16th 2012 @ 04:30pm

    Those fish are incredible!

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