AN environmental artist is calling on people to join forces to combat the plague of waste left in beauty spots, saying "we have come together to clap for carers now we need to unite and bang the drum to respect the environment".

The plea from Diane Watson, who recently secured Arts Council funding to embark on a project to make a garden out of 3500 plastic bottles - the most commonly found plastic on any beach, follows the piles of litter left behind on beaches and in beauty spots after lockdown eased.

Ms Watson's 'Garden of the Deep' project will be exhibited as part of the Festival of Thrift’s revised celebration of sustainability, Thriftfest Upcycled, on 12 and13 September.

The Tees Valley festival is being given a socially-distanced makeover, enabling people to adapt, share, create, learn and enjoy in an alternative way.

The artist notes how her daily exercise in lockdown, walking a two mile stretch of beach with her dogs, was “noticeably cleaner, the birds were singing louder and even the air felt fresher” leading her to wonder “was nature in the absence of humans beginning to heal?”

However, since the easing of lockdown,“within days the litter and mess had returned. Bags full of picnic and food wrappers, chip papers, bottles of beer and half-empty plastic bottles once again became the norm.”

Acknowledging this is a national issue, the artist, who focuses on creating art with plastic debris found along beaches and coastlines, calls for greater eduction around sustainability.

The Northern Echo:

Ms Watson, who worked with local communities to achieve plastic free status for Hartlepool, an initiative led nationally by Surfers Against Sewage, said: “Too often, there is a general lack of awareness of the problem and a sense that it’s somebody else’s problem.

"Shifting understanding to a consensus view that management of waste is our own responsibility would be a huge leap forward.

“In a world of increasing misinformation, confusion and distraction, a simple message that unites the community is the most positive step I feel I can offer as a visual artist. We have come together to clap for carers now we need to unite and bang the drum to respect the environment.”

The Northern Echo:

“As we lead up to the Thriftfest Upcycled weekend I am going to continue making flowers and collect the ones that others have made and do some guerilla planting."

The artists is planning on taking the upcycled flowers on a tour of the Tees Valley and photographing them in different and unexpected locations.

She added: "Look out for some beautiful plastic blooms flowering near you.”