Cast & Blast

Lowcountry artists turn ocean and beach trash into art to help save our waters

This turtle art was made from over 1,200 cigarette butts (out of  
over 9,600 collected) found on the beach in front of Coligny  
Plaza on Hilton Head Island.
This turtle art was made from over 1,200 cigarette butts (out of over 9,600 collected) found on the beach in front of Coligny Plaza on Hilton Head Island. Submitted photo

Fish, fish, fish. Is that all Collins can talk about?

Considering it is an outdoor column and I fish way more than I hunt, I guess the answer is a resounding “yes.”

If you were wondering what happened to my column last week, I wasn’t fired but I was taking a two-day tour of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. No, I’m not dying or anything, or at least I don’t think I am, but getting old sure ain’t for sissies.

I will say this: the Mayo Clinic is unbelievable. It’s rare that I say nice things about the medical profession as a whole but talk about a breath of fresh air — the Mayo Clinic is my new favorite place. Everyone is friendly, efficient and the campus looks more like a resort-like spa than a medical facility.

Have I been fishing? Well yes and no. It seems that the wind just won’t cooperate, but there is one fish that just doesn’t seem to care — flounder. Yep, I said flounder. Unlike areas like the Outer Banks, where flounder fishing is an everyday event pretty much all year long, around here there just as many flatfish but targeting them is iffy at best. About the only time of the year when I catch them regularly is late fall.

I use live finger mullet along with tons a patience. The big females are on the move offshore. I won’t say I catch dozens on a trip but the ones I do catch are usually big and fat. Other than triggerfish and wahoo, flounder are hard to beat as an eating fish, especially if they are fried and served up with a splash of remoulade sauce and a side of fresh fruit.

Even now, I’m drooling on my keyboard just thinking about that meal. It’s one meal my wife and I never seem to tire of.

Switching gears, I want to do some trash talking.

When I say “trash,” it’s quite literal.

All week long, I had planned on writing about trash and low and behold, I picked up Thursday’s Packet. The front page had a story about the plastic bag ban that went into affect on Nov. 1.

So what spurred me on to bring up trash talk? Two things really.

The first was being asked to help judge an art contest at the Port Royal Foundation Maritime Center where all the entries were made from, you got it, trash. More specifically garbage that has been pulled from our waters along with highly controversial items such as plastic straws and plastic bags.

But before I go into detail about this event, I want to tell you about a second event that happened to me while I was shopping that really got my goat.

I was standing in line at Staples and in front of me was a couple ready to check out. After purchasing their item the woman at the cash register asked them if they wanted their items in a bag. The woman said “yes” and out came a paper bag. At that point the woman says “Paper? From now on I am going to shop in Jasper County because they still use plastic bags!”

I should have bitten my tongue but I simply couldn’t.

I tried to explain how harmful plastic is to our environment, and especially our waters, even telling them about plastics showing up in our oysters.

I also told her that washing machines are also a major source of plastics in our water and that a $15 filter can be installed on the washing machine drainage line that can capture plastic filaments that come from clothes made of polyester and other synthetic materials. Those filaments make it into water treatment plants but even there they are no removed from the water that eventually makes it into our waters.

Needless to say she didn’t take my explanation well even though I tried to say it calmly and was in no way confrontational.

I really did try but to no avail.

The aspect of this meeting of the minds that really got me was these folks were my age or older and for most of our lives, paper bags were the norm — way before plastic came on the scene.

The next day, I headed to the Maritime Center to judge and talk about being blown away. It was incredible. Expecting a handful of entries, I found 103 different works of art.

School classes from all over had entries. From everyday joes and professional artists, they all were represented and some of things they came up with were so damn creative.

Judging was based on five different criteria with scoring of one to four, four being the best.

I will say it was obvious which entries were done by seasoned artists vs. school kids but I took this into account in my scoring.

Best of all were brief descriptions with each entry that explained where, what and why they used materials they found.

Saving our waters should be front and center in all age groups.

Keep it up people and remember paper is the way to go here along the coast.