Mosaic created from bottle tops

Published 10:47 pm Friday, January 19, 2018

A mosaic created by thousands of donated plastic bottle tops is driving home the message about how much plastic Americans consume and the need to recycle it and keep it from polluting nature.

The project stemmed from a partnership between Keep Suffolk Beautiful, the Suffolk Art League, the Suffolk Art Gallery and Suffolk Public Schools and was designed to raise awareness of plastic pollution and to promote recycling, according to a city press release. More than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in oceans every year, resulting in an estimated 100,000 marine mammals and millions of birds and fish killed annually, according to

On Jan. 13, 32 volunteers arrived at the Suffolk Art Gallery to produce the mosaic.


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“Raising awareness of plastic pollution and the damage it does to our environment is very important,” said Angela McElroy, oceanography teacher at Nansemond River High School. “Getting students involved using art is an effective way to engage and get people thinking.”

Lakeland High School art teacher Angela White, student Aniston Waldo and King’s Fork High School art teacher Stephanie Gwaltney work on the mosaic.

The bottle tops were collected over a six-week period that started on America Recycles Day, Nov. 15. The goal was to collect 6,000 bottle tops, but students and members of the public took to the campaign, and by the end of December, organizers had received approximately 20,000 tops of all shapes, sizes and colors.

“It goes to show how much plastic we use in our daily lives,” Suffolk Art League Executive Director Linda Bunch said. “We hope this project will encourage people to recycle more and maybe change some habits. Instead of buying a bottle of water, why not use a refillable container?”

Many of the volunteers for the project were high school students. Keep Suffolk Beautiful invited art teachers at each public high school to recruit students to take part.

“It was great to have so many students from different schools working together,” said Wayne Jones, spokesman for Keep Suffolk Beautiful. “Everybody had a really great time, and after five hours, we were all really pleased with how well the mosaic turned out. A special thank-you needs to be extended to Linda Bunch of the Suffolk Art League and Stephanie Gwaltney, Angela White and Brian Kershasky, the art teachers from our public high schools.”

The mosaic is currently displayed at City Hall, 442 W. Washington St., after which it will move to the North Suffolk Library. The idea is to move it to different venues across the city, where it will be accompanied by recycling information. Anyone can watch the mosaic being made in a time-lapse video available on the city’s You Tube channel, or on the Facebook pages for Keep Suffolk Beautiful, The Suffolk Art League or the City of Suffolk.

Thousands of leftover bottle tops they have already been claimed by local artists and teachers who have been inspired by this project and want to make their own.

For more information about this project or for recycling information, email or call 514-7604.