Local Kids Create Treasures Out of Trash


Some kids in our area recently competed in a very unique art contest. They created art while cleaning up the environment at the same time. That’s because their artwork was made of litter that they had picked up in our area. Other people’s trash …became their treasures!

This is the third year of the “Tossed” competition that brings awareness to the public about the impact litter has on the environment and water quality through art. The project begins with kids collecting things others have tossed to the ground. This litter is found on or near streams, trails, parks, streets and neighborhoods. Then the trash is transformed into sculptures—with a little help from paint, glue, wire, screws, nails and lots of imagination.

The sculptures were entered at the Benton County Fair in August. They were judged and received ribbons. This year because of Covid-19, the fair was very different, with only a day for Exhibitors and family members to view their sculptures with ribbons on them. It was also a virtual event so others could see their work. The public participated by voting on-line for their favorite and those top three winners in each class received gift cards. Take a look at some of these amazing works of art and read the stories behind them!


Tot division (5-8 years old)

Aubree S. – Colorful Garden – 1st place

“I picked up litter in my neighborhood. Then, I made a garden with a butterfly, a flower, a rainbow, and grass. I used the litter, paint and glue to make a garden. It was fun!”

Learn more about Aubree, our Kid Hero

Reed W. – Electric Lawn Truck – 2nd place

“I like cars and when I found a big Styrofoam cooler in a drainage pond I got the idea. We found discarded coupon books by our mailbox with the lawn care ads. The broken guitar became my seat back and gear shift (found in creek at Park Springs Park). We used a broken spoon for the windshield wiper and a Jenga block for the back windshield wiper. We added gas/brake pedals, door handles, knobs and dials and a phone charger-the charger for the electric car (it’s battery powered, like a Tesla). We found the car emblem at Crystal Lake and the license play laying on a ball field. All trash was collected in Benton County between 3/21/20 and 7/27/20 except for 2 toilet paper rolls.”

Ella W. – School House Playground – 3rd place

“My mom, brother and I picked up litter on the roads close to our house. We found a firework mortar, Styrofoam, a plastic plant container, some wire, and long plastic straps at a construction site. From our recycling, we had a cat food container, a yogurt cut and cardboard. I am very excited about school starting so I can make some friends here and learn, so I made a schoolhouse playground with my mom’s help. The Styrofoam is the grass. The slide is the firework shell, with wire ladder steps. The yogurt cup is the top of the slide, and a kid is made out of wire, and she is having fun sliding down. The slide is from long pieces of plastic straps. The sandbox is the cat food can with Styrofoam painted yellow. The playhouse is the plant box and I painted the doors and windows on. Then at every playground is a trash can that we are SUPPOSED to put our trash in. I put some scraps of the trash we pick up in it!”

Not pictured, Berkley – Bent Gate Hayfield

“My family and I have been recycling my whole life. We walk our dirt road a lot and have kept what little trash we find cleaned up. I helped Poppy clean out his barn and found some trash. The rest I got from our families’ recycle bins. The base is a cardboard box. The fence is straws and the string came off the top of feed sacks. The road is the top of a feed sack. The windmill is a recycled bowl, a Gatorade lid, and the legs are old straws. The silo is a paper towel roll. The pond is cut from a take out container. The rocks are made form the wrappers of cough drops. The honeybee hive is a hand soap box. The bales of hay are made from an old sanding block, and the strings are from the feed sacks. The flag is from an old cattle magazine. I had so much fun designing and painting this project all made from trash.”


Youth division (ages 9-19)

Yenuli W. – Barnyard – 1st place

“This is a sculpture of a farm scene. I used a cardboard lid for the base. Making the cow and the calf was my favorite part. For the legs I used old plastic stamps and painted them. I made a pig and some piglets out of bottles and bottle caps. I used the plastic tray as the pig pen. I made a tractor using a razor case and some bottle caps. The tractor was carrying chocolate wrappers that are supposed to represent the animals’ food. To make the human in the tractor I found cardboard with a picture of a girl. With the use of chocolate wrappers and bottle caps I made multiple chickens. I could make a duck in a pond with a small cup. Lastly to make the tree I used a tissue paper roll and a green net. With some paint my sculpture was finally finished. I had a great time doing this project!!!”

Daniel D. – Litter Harvester – 2nd place

“I wanted to make a piece of farm equipment out of litter. I used a kitty litter jug and two 2-liter bottles from our recycle bin from home. I used an egg carton, broken coat hanger, cardboard, and two 20 oz. bottles from trash pick-ups. Most of these items were from the trash pick-up my club did on the Mercy Trailhead on the Razorback Greenway last October. I used a lot of paint and hot glue to put together the combine. It was fun to see how I could get the header at the front of the combine to move. I really enjoyed this year’s theme (On the Farm) and am excited about entering this contest each year.”

Lily L. – Bumblebee – 3rd place

“I gathered all the materials from picking up trash along Davis in Pea Ridge. I ride or walk and as I see trash, I pick it up, take it home and throw it away. The only things I got from home were the paints, googly eyes, glue, skewer stick and moss. Bumblebee is made of a tin can, with water bottle plastic wings, screws for the antenna, and bottle caps for eyes. The can was created as a base to stand it up. I created bumblebee because it was simple and cute!”

Noah – Apple Spur 4-H Barn

“My Tossed project this year is the Apple Spur Barn. It was made out of 2 boxes that were in my garage. Then I used 4 cans and the top of a 20 oz. bottle to make the silo. My little brother found a fishing bobber when we did a trash pick up at Beaver Lake. I used that to make the weathervane for the top of the barn. I used spray paint and regular paint to paint the barn, silo, weathervane and the 4-H clover. This was a lot of fun.”


Mixed Age

Ella W. and Amanda W. (mom) – Bottle Lillies

“We found a lot of different bottles on our trip to pick up trash on the road close to our house. First the terra cotta pot is two plastic plant containers that we glued together and made a rim out of sturdy plastic straps. Mom spray painted it with terra cotta paint and added a large rock we picked up on our trash pick up. We ended up using it as a weight. Then, Styrofoam/dirt was painted black. The Bottle Lillies tag was also litter. The flowers are all made with part of a plastic bottle. There were Dr. Pepper, water and Sprite bottles among the bottles we used. We found enough aluminum tabs to serve as leaves from cans we picked up and from our recycle bin. We painted each flower and then spray painted the skewer stems (from our kitchen) and tabs green. We had fun making a litter flower arrangement! Who knew trash could be pretty?”

TOSSED is sponsored by Northwest Arkansas Stormwater Education and the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research & Extension. There are a variety of partners that help sponsor the promotion of the program and awards. For more information about the program and upcoming contests, contact lsimpson@uaex.edu or call 479‑271‑1060.