Bandon, Oregon… An Attractive Coastal Town Where Trash Becomes Art

Trash gathered along the coastline near Bandon, Oregon is turned into art by the nonprofit organization, Washed Ashore. In this case, the artists have created a puffin.


Here’s something to think about:

A study carried out by the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicts that the plastic we are dumping into the ocean will weigh more than the fish in a short 30 years. While most of this plastic circles the ocean as sludge following currents known as gyres, a significant amount washes up on our beaches creating hazards for wildlife and visual pollution for the rest of us. Even the most pristine locations fall victim to this onslaught.

When Peggy and I drove into the small town of Bandon on the coast of Oregon two weeks ago, we spotted several colorful sculptures of marine life that immediately caught out attention. On closer inspection, we found out they were made out of trash collected from the local beaches and turned into sculptures by a local organization named Washed Ashore.

The non-profit is the creation of Bandon artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi who decided to do something about the pollution that was cluttering local beaches in 2010 and begin turning the trash into art.

“First you just want people to stop and look at the art,” Angela noted. “And then you want to have them stop and think about the problem.”

It certainly worked with us.

Today, hundreds of volunteers join with Angela and her staff in creating sculptures that travel the country and even the world creating awareness about our use of the oceans as a garbage dump. Last year, a number of Washed Ashore’s sea creatures even made it to the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC.

This delightful fish is another example of Washed Ashore’s artistic endeavors. Note the old phone on the fish’s nose right above the child’s sand shovel.

Here is the puffin featured at the beginning of the post…

And this is a view of tide pool life created from trash.

A closeup of the feathers on the puffin’s chest.

A head on view of the fish with it’s scary teeth and trashy mouth.

Peggy, who always makes sure that her trash is properly disposed of and recycled, can stick her hand in the fish’s mouth without any fear of retribution.

But here’s what it might be like if she dumped her trash in the ocean! (She really is a good sport when serving as a model. “Look like it is biting you,” I had told her.)

Most towns along the Oregon coast spread out along Highway 101 like strip malls and feature the same motels, gas stations and fast food joints you can expect to find anywhere else in the US. Peggy and I have discovered, however, that most of these small communities also had the foresight to save their historic districts. These in turn have become attractions for tourists, a source of important jobs and dollars.

Bandon welcomes visitors and provides activities that range from walking on its beautiful beaches, to shopping and eating in town, to playing golf on some of Oregon’s finest golf courses.

The other side of this sign over Bandon’s main street welcomes you to Old Town. This side looks out on busy Highway 101 from the historic district.

Such is the case with Bandon. Peggy and I wandered around Old Town and did our bit for the local economy. We bought books in a fun little bookstore, nibbled our way through a chocolate store, and quaffed a couple of pints of Guinness at an Irish pub. We even checked out a store that is dedicated to producing and selling candy made with cranberries. It turns out that Bandon grows over 90% of Oregon’s cranberry crop and 5% of the nation’s!

I would describe the Old Town area as fun and funky. The nature of the original town has been preserved without pretensions.

As you might imagine, the town’s access to the ocean guarantees an abundance of fresh seafood. I liked the sense of humor reflected by the fish.

An attractive boardwalk featuring several works of art fronts the Coquille River and forms the northern border to Old Town. We concluded our visit to Bandon by strolling along the walkway, checking out the marina, and admiring the art.

A world globe we found on Brandon’s Boardwalk conveniently located where we were.

A regal seahorse checked us out…

A carved turtle grinned at us…

And led me to focus in on its smile.

A friendly harbor seal…

Gave us a look that seemed to say, “Feed me a fish, please.”

And a crab did what crabs do so well— look crabby.

My favorite, however, was this octopus. I took several shots.

Back lit by the sun, he looked a little scary, like something out of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

I decided to use my last photo to introduce my next post on Bandon (next Monday). Peggy and I will cross the Coquille River to check out this lighthouse and the ocean beach next to it. We are looking at the lighthouse from Bandon’s Boardwalk.



Wednesday: I begin a three-part series that focuses on a backpack trip near Lake Tahoe where we found Bone.

Friday: I will continue my photo essays on the art of Burning Man.

Monday: I’ll wrap up the Bandon, Oregon series with a trip to the Coquille Lighthouse and the surrounding area.



49 thoughts on “Bandon, Oregon… An Attractive Coastal Town Where Trash Becomes Art

  1. Thanks for this post. I can’t believe we missed going into Bandon on our drive up the coast. Looks and sounds like a great little place. The trash sculptures are amazing–especially the puffin. Good for them for finding such a creative way to draw attention to a serious problem.

    • As I’ve noted in my other answers, Peggy and I missed it, too. Several times. 🙂
      I love it when people find such creative ways to address problems. Thanks for commenting. –Curt

  2. This looks to be a definite stop on a coastal road trip.
    Yeah plastic. The bane of our environment. There is also this large heap in the middle of the pacific and it seems to be growing!

  3. Thanks for the post.
    Two thoughts: Like Anonymous above, we must have just driven right by Bandon on 101 without going in, a mistake to be rectified the next time;
    and second, back in the 80’s I advocated recycle first and burn what is left in waste to energy plants. Environmentalists opposed this citing emissions and advocated banning plastic, an unrealistic solution in today’s society. We have come a long way in recycling but still not very far in reducing litter or landfills.

    • We did the same thing, Ray, drove right through Bandon several times. As for recycling, obviously, plastic hasn’t gone away. It’s too convenient. They have learned how to recycle it however. Not to say there aren’t problems. I oversaw one of the nation’s first community-wide recycling programs in 1970. We had over 300 volunteers at ten sites in Sacramento once a month with 10,000 people bringing us their newspapers, glass and cans they had been storing up for a month! Talk about insanity… 🙂 –Curt

  4. A couple of things caught my attention: the sheer amount of trash that washes up on shore is stunning….turning it into art is brilliant, especially because the art does draw your attention to just exactly what it is made up of…very powerful!! Brandon looked familiar and upon seeing the lighthouse at the end of the post…it all fell into place….my wife and I did a lighthouse tour starting in No California and ending up in Seattle a number of years ago…recognize the small lighthouse…great post…thanks for sharing!!

    • And thank you, Kirt. Just today, I saw a New York Times article about the plastic waste now making its way into the Arctic. Hopefully campaigns like Washed Away will help lead to a solution.
      Peggy and I are gradually working our way through the lighthouses. Have you posted anything on your trip, Kirt? I am doing more on the Coquille Lighthouse on Monday and I have a couple more coming up in the next couple of weeks in my Monday series. –Curt

      • Any that I posted on my blog would have been a couple of years back….if you are interested in what I got from our trip…..go to my website and look at my Lighthouse/nautical gallery….almost all of those lighthouses are from that trip….thanks for stopping by!!

      • I went to you site and found myself going through all 7 pages. Beautiful work, Kirt. I’ll be posting on the Coquille Lighthouse Monday, the Heceda Head Lighthouse on a week from Monday, and the Umpqua Lighthouse two weeks from Monday. Thanks for the intro to your work. –Curt

  5. What a charming (maybe a little quirky?) town. The art-from-garbage was fascinating; if I didn’t know it had such a noble purpose, I might have passed it by, but understanding the origin makes it that much more appealing.

  6. I am always excited to read/hear about ways that people Reduce-Reuse-Recycle. These pieces of artwork are incredible! And to think they’re made from trash. I recently visited Peru and took a short cruise on a boat made from reeds and plastic water bottles. Another great use of all the plastic that litters our planet. Thanks for sharing!

    • They are special, Juliann, and oh so creative. I really admire folks who can come up with such ideas. I’ve been following you Lake Titicaca adventures. The use of the plastic bottles as floats is a good idea. –Curt

  7. The puffin’s a complete delight, although all that plastic is distressing.

    It’s interesting — back in the 1950s, recycling already was a part of life. We had a cardboard box on the back porch where newspapers went after they were read. Every now and then, there would be a paper drive, and bundles of newsprint would pile up in front of whatever church or school or city office was sponsoring it. Boy Scouts and 4-H earned money for various projects by recycling the newspapers — there even would be competitions.

    And of course we collected and returned glass bottles for that 5 cent deposit.

    What we’ve gained in convenience, we’ve lost in a multitude of other ways.

    • When I oversaw a volunteer community wide recycling campaign in Sacramento (spearheaded by an 18 year old woman), I saw more paper, cans and bottles than I ever care to see again, Linda. Once a month, 10,000 families brought us tons of the stuff and I was operating a fleet of trucks all driven by volunteers. We crushed glass in 50 gallon drums and then loaded them on to rail cars. Scary! After six months, I cancelled the drive and told people to call the County to set up a recycling program. The County called and pleaded with me to stop having people call them. 🙂 –Curt

  8. I wish I had read this post before our trip along the Oregon coast. If I had, we would have made an effort to stop at Bandon, for sure. The sculptures are unbelievable — not just for what was made of the trash, but the fact that there was so much to work with. Geez, people. Stop throwing stuff into the oceans! Great post, as always!

    • “Geez, people. Stop throwing stuff into the oceans!” Yes! 🙂 Bandon is definitely worth a stop, Rusha, if you are out this way again. Make sure you get over to the Face Rock state park and to the lighthouse as well. And thanks. –Curt

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