Western New Yorkers are marking Earth Day in a variety of ways. At the Buffalo Museum of Science, the Earth Day celebrations included the debut of an exhibit of creative student art aimed at curbing pollution in our area.

The “I Am the Solution To Plastic Pollution” display features the winning art pieces submitted by students across Erie County, who were invited to create videos, decorative and functional rain barrels, or artwork out of single-use plastic shopping bags.

“I was really excited to do the project because, first of all, we got to talk really about recycling, all the really great things we got to do with it,” said Kara Gurgol, an Iroquois High School junior who’s artwork was chosen for the display.

“And the fact that I won was really cool,” she added.

Gurgol created colorful art depicting a scene of elephants using only single-use plastic bags. She did not use any paint for her piece.

She’s one of about 2,000 students from across Erie County who took part in this year’s competition.

Adam Rivers, an art teacher at the Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School, says this is the second year in a row his students have taken first place for a rain barrel creation.

“They kind of came up with a couple different ideas each and they basically settled on one idea combining all three of their ideas together, and I think they did an excellent job,” he said.

The rain barrels are part of educational campaign encouraging people to use water runoff in their yards for things like gardening, rather than having it go back into the storm sewer system where it would have to be treated.

It costs taxpayers quite a bit of money to clean that water, and our choices really end up costing the environment, too.

“Litter is the biggest problem in this area in terms of plastic waste,” said Andrew Goldstein, Erie County’s Recycling Coordinator. “It gets into our sewers, storm water system, clogs them up. And then it does make its way into our waterways where it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces and fish will ingest them.”

Most local families use a lot of plastic bags, which too often end up as litter.

Students were invited to bring in the plastic bags their families got from the grocery store over the course of a month. In many classrooms, that added up to thousands of bags.

We’re trying to teach kids and families that there’s an alternative, and that’s to bring your own shopping bag,” Goldstein said.

Remember, if you do use the single-use plastic bags, you can bring them back to the store where you got them to be recycled. You are asked not to put them out at the curb with your other recyclables.

The students who contributed to the I Am The Solution to Plastic Pollution display were able to recycle thousands of bags into incredible, educational art.

At the core of what we do here at the Science Museum, it’s education, and educating the public about ways that they can impact their lives, their world,” said David Cinquino, the Director of Experience at the Buffalo Museum of Science.

If you’d like to see I Am The Solution to Plastic Pollution for yourself, it will be on display at the Buffalo Museum of Science through May 31.