Turning Trash Into Art at the Tennessee Aquarium


Chattanooga has many jewels in its crown, but one that shines the brightest is the Tennessee Aquarium. This spot is a favorite for local families and tourists alike.

Turning Trash Into Art at the Tennessee Aquarium

Recently my son and I had the opportunity to go and checkout their latest exhibit, Washed Ashore sponsored by TDOT’s Nobody Trashes Tennessee. This beautiful art exhibit highlights the impact of roadway and microplastics in Tennessee’s waterways. In order to show how much litter is found in waterways each year, they took actual litter from bodies of water and turned them into art.

This post is brought to you by our partners at Nobody Trashes Tennessee.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when my son and I went, but I was amazed at how beautiful all of the artwork was. You would never know it was made from litter until you were right on top of it. It was all themed towards water dwelling animals, so it fit in perfectly with the normal attractions at the aquarium. My son is six, and at every turn, he was able to identify the artwork and take me straight to it. We looked at all the individual pieces of litter that comprised the sculptures, and it made for a very easy conversation as to why we don’t litter.

Denise Baker with the Tennessee Department of Transportation shared, “Our partnership with the Tennessee Aquarium raises awareness and educates people about the harmful impact of litter and how microplastics affect the entire water system. While most people know about the garbage patches in the ocean,” says Baker, “they may not realize that 80% of the plastic in the ocean comes from the land, and is carried there by the vast network of river basins including the Tennessee River.”

Besides the gorgeous sculptures that graced us throughout our journey, there were cool interactive elements throughout the aquarium that allowed for hands-on participation. My son thought it was so neat to listen to an actual voice giving him information while showing the effects of litter on a big screen. We also learned that whatever is littered on land will make its way to our waterways. Our cars, plastic utensils, straws, and water bottles are also causing a huge impact on water pollution.


My son absolutely loved the sculpture of the sea otter in the River Journey building, but I think my favorite was the jellyfish in the Ocean Journey building. Not only was this exhibit educational, but it was really beautiful. It also made it easy for my son and I to discuss what pollution and litter are and why we should do everything we can to keep our state clean. There is no extra admission cost for viewing this exhibit, so take advantage while it’s there! One of favorite things about Chattanooga is the easy access we have to lakes and the Tennessee River, so we need to do our part to make sure it’s enjoyable for everyone – fish and animals included.

We hope you Join the Nobody Trashes Tennessee Movement to help end littering in Tennessee. Learn more about how you can get involved at NobodyTrashesTennessee.com.


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