South Jersey Climate News

South Jersey Climate News

South Jersey Climate News

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Bynn Wilson, Staff Writer • February 25, 2024

Photo Gallery: Atlantic County residents transform trash into art

The annual recycled art contest sponsored by Atlantic County Utilities Authority urges a creative rethinking of garbage.
Pizza+Box+Octopus+on+Balloons+by+Eduardo+Jim%C3%A9nez+won+first+prize+in+the+19+and+over+age+category+at+the+9th+annual+recycled+art+contest+organized+by+the+Atlantic+County+Utilities+Authority.+%28Dan+Luna+%7C+South+Jersey+Climate+News%29
Dan Luna
Pizza Box Octopus on Balloons by Eduardo Jiménez won first prize in the 19 and over age category at the 9th annual recycled art contest organized by the Atlantic County Utilities Authority. (Dan Luna | South Jersey Climate News)

The Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) held its ninth annual recycled art contest which encourages residents to transform trash and recycling into creative works of art. The event is part of a nation-wide America Recycles Day held each November.

A wide range of art, crafts and jewelry made from discarded items like balloons, aluminum cans, newspapers and old electronic wires were on display, and prizes were awarded. The contest had the largest participation ever, according to organizers, with more than 100 submissions to each category: 8 & younger, 9-13, 14-18, 19 & older and the group projects. 

The event also featured recycling trucks, tours, and information sessions about watersheds, electronic recycling, and gardening.

“It’s been a great way to get people thinking about recycling and getting creative,” said Amy Menzel, communications manager for ACUA.

Connor Bald, 15, won first-place in the 14-18 age bracket for his “Tin Can Cat.”

Connor Bald, 15, won first-place in the 14-18 age bracket for his “Tin Can Cat.” (Dan Luna | South Jersey Climate News)

“Our teacher said something about the [recycled art contest] when we were in our art club, and I just thought it sounded fun and it gave me something to do,” said Bald. “Oh, and she said I could win money.”

Eduardo Jiménez, 59, a resident of Brigantine, won the adult category for his Pizza Box Octopus on Balloons.

Jiménez started collecting trash on the streets and beaches during the pandemic and posted his trash hauls to his Instagram account. Eventually, he was inspired by an artist from Florida to start his new hobby of making pictures and sculptures of sea life out of trash. 

“I just want people to see that all this trash should not be in the environment,” said Jiménez. “And if people see it, maybe they think twice about throwing it away. Maybe they walk around collecting it like it did, take it in their pocket, and dispose of it properly.” 

Each artist was awarded a certificate from Matthew Denafo, ACUA president.

“I think it’s a fun event to get kids engaged with recycling, talking more about it than just ‘these are the rules for recycling,’ trying to make it more fun,” said Denafo.

The event is also part of a larger effort by the authority to educate residents about the importance of recycling in Atlantic County, where landfills are reaching capacity.

Tara Bach, an art teacher from Washington Avenue Elementary School, received awards for her kindergarten and first-graders group, who took home an honorable mention and a third place.

“We like to teach sustainable practices and teach our kids to use the kinds of materials that they have around them to make something beautiful,” said Bach. “They come to me and say ‘Look what I found!’ and ‘Look what I made!’ They show me what the good trash is, and I think that helps combat throwaway culture.”

Click on photo gallery by Dan Luna

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