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Henry Wang and some of the common items, such as golf balls, lighters, sunglasses and even paddles, that he often removes from lakes. Photo: Henry Wang

Trash removed from local lakes gets a second life in art project

A group of divers hand off the trash to artists to turn them into something beautiful and meaningful.

By Stella-Luna Ha , in Environment , on December 10, 2021 Tags: , , , , , ,

A volunteer team of divers has taken every opportunity they can to pull trash from the bottom of lakes in B.C., collecting tonnes of trash.

This year, they’ve got a renewed focus — handing that trash over to B.C. arts groups to turn into creative projects.

At first, the group was focused on removing trash from local waters. Now, it has become part of a project to turn waste into works of art instead of ending up in landfills.

“I thought it would be cool to take some of the stuff we found and see what kind of creative art we can make. Then using the art as another avenue of educating the public on the amount of trash we find,” said Henry Wang, founder of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans.

Wang reached out to Amy Liebenberg who was then the executive for Squamish Arts Council. Liebenberg took the idea and made it into a much bigger project, bringing on more arts councils, artists, and sponsors.


Beer cans, bottles, golf balls, plastic cups are removed during the recent cleanup dive at Jade Bay Boat Launch, Cultus Lake. Photo: Henry Wang

The divers’ group will hand off 11 piles of trash to the Sea to Sky Council Alliance, a collective of arts groups, on Dec. 11.

They partnered with the council to spark a conversation about the importance of responsible recycling and waste reduction.

“At this point, our focus is on the upcoming unveiling of the materials to our artists, and we look forward to seeing the creative process as each artist takes the trash and turns it into something new and beautiful,” said Haley Hardy, communications director of the Alliance.

Fourteen local artists from seven art councils (Pemberton Arts Council, Arts Whistler, the Squamish Arts Council, Lions Bay Arts, The Hearth Arts on Bowen, West Vancouver Arts Council, and North Van Arts) will create artworks for a collaborative project called Diving In: The Art of Cleaning Lakes and Oceans.

Jami Scheffer, executive director of The Hearth Arts on Bowen explained how they are going to use the given piles of trash. The assigned trash will be passed on to the artists in mid-December.

“It’s like the Chef Challenge but instead, we are going to create art from the trash,” Scheffer said.


DCLO working sign on land where the removed trash is often displayed for public viewing. Photo: Henry Wang

The travelling exhibit will be shown in seven communities to raise public awareness about the accumulation of trash in local waters.

“If we all could make a little bit better effort, to pack it in and pack it out, to make sure we don’t litter, we’re going to see a better result,” Wang said.

The exhibit will travel to seven communities between April and November next year.