Nova Scotia·Waves of Change

Amherst students raise pollution awareness with plastic bag mural

Students from every grade at Spring Street Academy in Amherst helped collect single-use plastic bags to create the mural.

Spring Street Academy students collected 20,000 disposable plastic bags to create the work of art

Spring Street Academy students are shown below the mural they created with the plastic bags they collected for recycling. (Daren White)

Waves of Change is a CBC series exploring the single-use plastic we're discarding, and why we need to clean up our act. You can be part of the community discussion by joining our Facebook group.

A plastic-bag recycling project by students at an Amherst, N.S., elementary school has produced a unique piece of art.

The students, who attend Spring Street Academy, collected over 20,000 single-use plastic bags for the Plastic Bag Grab Challenge, a nation-wide initiative created by the Recycling Council of Ontario.

When the bags became too much to keep in classrooms, teachers asked to store them in the gymnasium.

Physical education teacher Daren White saw the bags and came up with an alternative idea for their use.

The mural of an ocean scene is about 24 metres long and 3 metres wide. (Daren White)

He recruited his students to sort and glue the bags onto a gym wall. The finished product? A mural of an ocean scene, about 24 metres long and 3 metres wide, complete with breaching orcas, a fisherman and a lighthouse.

"It's really cool," says Simon Buske, a Grade 6 student who helped with the mural. "It's just taking something that we don't really need and making it into a work of art."

White says he wants students to continue to think critically about how people use disposable plastics.

"Our leaders are in our schools now and we can change their thoughts now," he said.

Students and the bags they collected are shown in the Spring Street Academy gymnasium in Amherst, N.S. (Daren White)

Now that the school has collected so many bags, White says faculty and students are trying to figure out what to do with the rest of them.

"One of the little boys today in Grade 1 said, 'Mr. White, we can make slippers and everybody can have plastic bag slippers, just pull them over your feet,'" he said. "They're thinking and I think that's the whole purpose."

A Facebook post White made about the mural has also yielded suggestions from community members. One woman suggested cutting the bags into strips and weaving them into reusable bags, place mats and cushions to put on hockey rink bleachers. 

White says he hopes word will get out about Spring Street Academy's project and other schools will use similar strategies to reduce and reuse plastic waste as well.