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Not Many People Know about this Life-sized Whale in New Mexico Made from Recycled Plastic Trash



Meet Ethyl the Whale, an impressive 82-foot-long, life-sized sculpture of a blue whale, proudly holding the Guinness World Record for the largest recycled plastic sculpture.


Crafted by San Francisco artists Yustina Salnikova and Joel Stockdill, this mammoth creation serves as a poignant symbol to raise awareness about the environmental impact of plastics, aptly named after its polyethylene composition. Originally conceived for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Ethyl found a new home with the Santa Fe-based art collective Meow Wolf in 2019, where it now stands majestically in the New Mexico desert, inviting visitors to explore its colossal form both in daylight and nightlight where it is illuminated.


Interesting facts about Ethyl

Here are some interesting facts, courtesy of Meow Wolf, about this massive work of art and the plastic usage it represents:

  • The plastic used to create the whale represents one person’s plastic trash by age 20.
  • All of the soap used to clean the trash was recycled from found laundry and soap bottles.
  • The placing of the skin onto the whale took three weeks, fabrication of the metal took four weeks, and recycling the plastic paneling took fifteen weeks.
  • One plastic panel is 4 cookie trays of plastic and weighs about 4.5 – 5 lbs., which equals about 37 empty milk jugs or 21 empty laundry detergent containers.
  • Most plastic bottle caps and labels are not made from the same type of plastic and cannot be recycled together. They must be separated.
  • HDPE is the most commonly-recycled plastic, and is considered one of the safest forms of plastic.
  • The appliances used to make each panel were either handmade (shredders), donated (grey water), or found on Craigslist (oven, washing machine).
  • All of the plastic for this project was donated.
  • Over 4,000 lbs in plastic bails (plastic crushed into cubes) were used to create the diamond-shaped panels. The average human in the U.S. uses about 200 lbs of plastic per year. The diamond skin panelling makes up about 20 people’s plastic waste in one year.


Know Before You Go

Ethyl is located on the back side of the Santa Fe Community College campus, so drive around on the loop road and you can’t miss her.

Address: 86 College Drive, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87508


Simon is a globe trotter who loves to write about travel. Trying new foods and immersing himself in different cultures is his passion. After visiting 24 countries and 18 states, he knows he has a lot more places to see!