This year for Earth Day, Halifax embraces artful repurposing of plastic

Susi Robbins with her upcycled flower artwork made of plastic bottles, tops and jugs.

Art serves many roles in society: for some it heals, for some it connects, and for others it provides work — but among art’s greatest purposes is to teach.

This upcoming Earth Day, the Town of Halifax is embracing that notion and placing art at the heart of its 14th Annual Earth Day Extravaganza event, taking place Saturday, April 23 at the Halifax Farmers Market from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

“I want people to see the reality of their waste,” said Susi Robbins, Earth Day event coordinator for the Town of Halifax.

Robbins is leading the town’s first “Think Outside the Trash Upcycled Art Contest,” where county residents can compete to create the best art sculpture using only discarded plastic materials, such as water bottles, juice pouch tops and laundry detergent jugs.

“They have to clean, collect, and find creative ways to use it,” said Robbins. “This kind of art makes them conscious of how much plastic they actually use in their households.”

The theme of the contest is nature, and entries must be submitted by April 16. Artworks will be judged before the Earth Day event, and they will be evaluated based on adherence to the theme, the materials used, originality, and craftsmanship. All artworks will be displayed on the day of the event.

The Earth Day Extravaganza will also bring together a slew of community members to educate and empower more earth-friendly habits and mindsets, including beekeepers, farmers, master gardeners, artists, and vendors. There will be arts and crafts stations for kids to learn about reducing, reusing and recycling, as well as opportunities for them to plant flower seeds, paint rocks, sing songs, and get their hands dirty in a sensory-play dirt pit.

Robbins, who is a mixed-media artist and former preschool art teacher, said the more art she makes with her waste, the more she wants to empower others to become less wasteful and more mindful of what really happens to trash after it is thrown out.

“It makes me want to help the future generations come up with ways to use alternative products, and find other forms of containers for products,” said Robbins, who has been collecting plastic bottles and tops for the event since September.

“When you see a big huge box of bottled tops, your mind goes to all the bottles that they were capped for. It was such a great reality check for myself,” she said.

In Halifax County, municipal recycling is sent to Tidewater Fiber, a recycling plant in Chester, where materials are sorted and processed. If it is contaminated or non-recyclable, it gets sent to a landfill.

But when it comes down to what actually gets recycled, said Kathy Russel, Tidewater’s Educational Outreach Coordinator it all comes back to what sells.

“The biggest factor is the market,” said Russell. “What do manufacturers need?”

Currently, the plant recycles mixed paper; metal, tin and aluminum cans; plastics #1 and #2; milk and juice cartons; cardboard; and glass bottles and jugs.

Manufacturers need what consumers purchase most.

Robbins is hoping that this Earth Day, with art, community and engagement, residents can expand their awareness of the downsides of plastic and become inspired to do something to curb its use in their own lives.

“We got into plastic because it’s easy, but we are being fooled. It’s just convenient,” said Robbins.

For more information about the 14th Annual Earth Day Extravaganza event and the “Think Outside the Trash” Upcycled Art Contest, visit or Like the Facebook page: @ Halifax Earth Day Extravaganza.

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