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Ever wondered what really happens to all the trash we humans produce? Let’s put it this way … it’s not a pleasant story. Every year, humans dump a whopping 8.8 million tons of plastic into the oceans, but that’s not where it ends. Over 80 percent of marine Pollution is derived from land-based activities. Oil spills, sewage, agricultural run-off, and the dumping of toxic chemicals are major problems, but so too is the everyday plastic trash that we often throw away without giving it too much thought.

The need to increase awareness for this issue is something that is deeply felt by graphic designer, Christian Waters.

On a recent snorkeling expedition to Malaysia, Waters and his girlfriend were admiring the pristine blue sky and crystal-clear sea, when they began to notice pieces of trash floating around in the water. In addition to this distressing sight, Waters had also recently watched “a graphic and emotionally wrenching” video of someone attempting to remove a bendy straw from the nose of a sea turtle. “In such beautiful scenery, (the trash is) something so vile that just disrupts it,” Waters said. “I knew it only takes one piece of trash to kill one piece of wildlife, and it made me really upset.”

Drawing from this experience, Waters decided to create a series of mock posters inspired by strong and pointed campaign images.

In an interview with Refinery29, Waters explained why he was so compelled to draw attention to this problem: “People are basically using the oceans as their trash cans. I thought, maybe I can make a difference and try to create something that will help people change their lives and change how they act towards the creatures in the sea.”

Waters’ images are both stunning and horrifying, adding the perfect touch of urgency to this issue.

The pictures are stark and uncompromising in their portrayal of the harsh truth about what the waste we produce is doing to the world’s oceans.

They aim to illustrate, as Waters has put it, that we truly are using our planet’s oceans as a giant trash can … and causing mass species extinction in the process.

Here is Water’s rendering of what the posters would look like as billboards – were this to be an actual campaign.

Given that scientists believe there are now at least three major trash islands in the Pacific Ocean alone, these images could not be more important or timely.

The image’s tagline, “Responsibility Changes Pollution,” reminds each one of us of the pivotal role that we have to play in changing the situation.


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All image source: Christian Waters

Update 9/14/2015: A previous version of this article incorrectly credited Water’s poster designs as being affiliated with WWF.