Side view of the big blue whale art installation overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge

Tackling a Whale of an Issue

Ocean plastic pollution is an enormous problem, almost impossible to visualize. To raise awareness, we built an 82-foot-long blue whale made entirely out of plastic waste. The colorful creature represents the fact that every nine minutes, plastic trash weighing as much as Earth's largest animal (about 300,000 pounds) makes its way to the ocean.

The plastic blue whale was created by San Francisco Bay Area artists Joel Dean Stockdill and Yustina Salnikova, plus a crew and dozens of volunteers. The artists developed a custom recycling process, manually fabricating panels out of discarded plastic bottles.

We installed the life-sized whale on San Francisco's Crissy Field, within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge. During its five months there, thousands of people took selfies with it, and our social media followers let us know that they loved our creative approach to explaining this planetary problem.

Meow Wolf, a public benefit arts and entertainment group, eventually purchased the whale and installed it on the campus of Santa Fe Community College to continue raising awareness about ocean plastic pollution.


Blue whale installation on Crissy Field during sunset

  • The plastic panels that compose most of the whale's exterior are made from hand-recycled type #2 (HDPE) plastic.
  • Local recycling centers donated more than 4,000 pounds of plastic trash.
  • The crew sorted the plastic by color, washed it, then cut it into small pieces and melted it in molds that formed individual panels for the body of the whale.
  • Each panel consists of four cookie trays of melted plastic; each took about 30 minutes to bake.
  • Each panel weighs about five pounds, which equals about 37 empty milk jugs or 21 empty laundry detergent bottles.
  • The artists used 750 panels and 65 recycled plastic barrels to build the whale's exterior.

Join Us

With your help, we can make progress toward a plastic-free ocean.

Learn more about what you can do

Annual Review 2018 (PDF)

  • Credits
  • © Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation