Our Trash Art Projects

An abundance of trash materials have been cleared from the riparian corridor and our waterways by our volunteers. Using art to tell the story of trash quickly emerged as an alternative to normal communication methods.

Giant Shoe

There are many balls picked up during our cleanups and this is highlighted in our newest trash art. Balls in a never-ending variety find their way into the creeks and rivers by way of gutters and storm drains. We even have a globe to represent Mother Nature!

Being mindful of “where things end up” is just one of our goals with this art piece. Reducing the human foot-print in nature or in this case shoe-print is another goal of this project. Be careful where you step and what you leave behind!!!!

framework for shoe

underlayer of shoe

completed shoe

Straw Chinook

Single-use trash is rampant in our waterways; we regularly clear this sort of trash after storm events, where we find these materials snagged in the vegetation throughout the riparian corridors. In 2017, we enlisted the help of Mulberry School students to count the number of single-use trash items collected during a Spring Cleanup Event along Ross Creek: the result was nearly 1,000 individual pieces found and counted that day.
Our intern, Jake Black, created this Chinook salmon using reclaimed straws found at several Cleanups. When you consider that these plastic items will be present in the environment for as long as 400 years - it is apparent that we do need to rethink the seemingly convenient harmful packagingculture and begin moving toward more sustainable alternatives.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Beaver on Mattress

This project brought several elements together; the beaver is covered in cigarette butts and it’s tail was crafted from, abandoned an old tire. A mattress pulled from the stream adorned with broken river glass worked as a stunning water illusion. Although it seemed odd paring all of these items together, the art-piece came out nicely and strongly conveys our message.

beaver mattress

Spray Can Eiffel Tower

Our waterways along our urban streams are covered with graffiti, and we regularly pull empty spray cans that were left in the wake of these graffiti events. For SJSU’s 2016 Earth Day, the theme of the Paris Accord was adopted, and after some conversations with our Partner, we agreed to construct an Eiffel Tower that would be covered with hundreds of spray cans that we had pulled from the local waterway.

Eiffel Tower Eiffel Tower

A team of students and faculty created a 23' tower adorned with 337 reclaimed spray cans that were collected at past cleanups. This project allowed us to showcase our cleanup work and opened the door for faculty inviting us to have direct contact with students in the classroom. A perpetual College Internship Program was launched with three interns, which focused on recruitment activities, development of prospecting materials, and on special projects as a result of the Eiffel Tower art piece.

Eiffel Tower

Hypodermic Egret

A constant concern for our volunteers as we began reaching remote areas was the presence of hypodermic needles. Our Team Leaders are trained on proper disposal of these items and we alert volunteers to avoid them. The situation goes beyond a drug issue as many of the campers have health issues, like diabetes for example. Altough it is easy to assume the worst of people, knowing about the diabetes health issue draws attention to the more complex issues surrounding the care of the homeless and provides insight to the bigger picture going on and long the creeks and rivers.

Egret Art Egret Art

Egret Art

Chinook Salmon Shopping Carts

The extent of shopping carts present in (and along) our local waterways was hammered home at a TEAM 222 event in July 2013, where we pulled 19 shopping carts out of a 70-yard stretch of the Los Gatos Creek. In the Park Ave stretch of the Los Gatos Creek, we were confronted with a section that had two levels of buried shoppping carts. The energy required to remove even a single shopping cart can’t be overstated. In some cases, we received reports back from City Park Rangers that the carts were being used as fish traps. Merging the story of our local Chinook salmon’s decline with the ever present shopping cart seemed like a good pairing. Over the past four years, we have returned to the Los Gatos Creek trail and installed this art down in the riparian corridor.

collecting shopping cartscollecting shopping carts

collecting shopping carts

Battery Art

Our first project showcased small disposable batteries and the ecological disaster that plays out as a result of the waste along our waterways. After the initial shock of entering these trash overridden areas, we were again dismayed to find hundreds of discarded batteries lying all over the creek banks. The situation became even more dire when we discovered hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of batteries in the water (Bascom bridge). This situation rendered once viable spawning areas to hazardous waste zones. The magnitude of the battery and e-waste problem eventually led to us assigning a group of volunteers who specifically walked the streambeds to remove batteries.

bucket of batteriesSeeking out batteries

battery salmon

battery beaver


Beyond the Recycled Art, SBCCC launched a mural program over the summer of 2017 along the Los Gatos Creek at Leigh Avenue bridge and bike trail, which came to life after we gained a portion of the funding required through Cities of Service and SBCCC. Our artist, Paul Gonzalez, did a spectacular job on this large panel that depicts our local Chinook salmon and beaver. We will continue to expand this program at additional sites along our waterways as a public art effort.

Salmon Mural