John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Street artist “Moose” power-washed dirty sidewalks to create a portrait of imperiled ocean life.
When you drop a candy wrapper or cigarette butt on the ground, its journey does not end there. Often it’ll be swept into storm drains and washed away, eventually joining the rotten soup of 5.25 trillion plastic particles polluting the seas.
London pedestrians now have a reminder of the ugly consequences of littering beneath their feet, thanks to a public intervention from grocery company Lidl and the charmingly named Keep Britain Tidy. The latter group—which despises misplaced trash so much it will find that Starbucks cup you tossed away and publicly shame you—worked with street artist Paul “Moose” Curtis to etch turtles, seabirds, and other imperiled marine life into the grime that’s caked on city sidewalks.
“Moose,” one of the pioneers of reverse graffiti, executed the oceanic portrait using stencils and a pressure washer. “I create this beautiful scene of wildlife and birds and fishes and then, as people drop litter, that litter is going to be placed on top of the artwork and it’s going to start destroying it,” he says in the below video. “It’s actually what’s happening in the environment, but in a little microcosm on the pavement.“
Here’s more from Keep Britain Tidy:
In a world first, Moose has used observations of members of the public dropping litter in the street and recreated the rubbish within the image, systematically destroying the artwork and obliterating the marine wildlife, in a dramatic representation of the impact that litter has in the marine environment….
Every year numerous reports of marine wildlife injured or killed by litter are recorded. Our native marine wildlife including fish, seabirds, turtles and seals are all at risk with research showing that almost 700 species have been recorded coming into contact with man-made litter and debris, 17% of which are threatened or critically endangered. With statistics showing that up to 90% of seabirds and 60% of turtles have plastic in their stomachs causing death and injury, it’s clear that desperate action is required.