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The plastic bag monster reminds us how much we waste. To see before he leaves. (PICTURES)

Surrounded by a sea of ​​green grass and trees stands a monster in Hammonton Lake Park.

This beast at its peak is about 10 feet tall, 15 feet wide, covered in plastic bags, and has been around since October of last year.

It is a symbol of change.

The Leviathan is its name – an octopus made of plastic bags – and it has served its purpose now that the ban on single-use plastic bags is in effect, said Dan Bachalis, chairman of the Hammonton Environmental Commission.

“The whole idea was meant to educate people about what I call the scourge of single-use plastic bags, single-use plastics in general, and alternatives to using individual single-use bags,” said he said last Monday evening as the beast loomed. above him.

Named after an ancient sea monster, the Leviathan is framed in wood, its body made of chicken wire covered with thousands of plastic bags. The idea came from pupils at Kienzle Family Primary School who wanted Hammonton to be a more sustainable community and to do something about the use of plastic bags.

The Leviathan in Hammonton Lake Park, Monday May 2, 2022. The octopus is made from single-use plastic and was designed to raise awareness of the plastic ban. Tim Falcon | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

They had an idea for a half-octopus, half-dragon sculpture that was so compelling that Bachalis said they had to make it happen.

The Hamilton Environmental Commission applied for and received a $500 grant from the Atlantic County Utilities Authority to help fund the idea.

Local artist Don Swenson came up with a design and the Leviathan was quickly born.

The pandemic has slowed the assembly, and it has taken all of 2020 and half of 2021 for members of the Environmental Commission, the Hammonton Green Committee, local Mormon Church missionaries and community volunteers to put it together. in place, Bachalis said.

Plastic bags, securely tied, constitute the body. Plastic plates make up the eyes, and rolled yellow plastic bags and plastic lids are used for the suction cups. His mouth is made of plastic yoghurt pots.

Leviathan

The front of Leviathan in Hammonton Lake Park, Monday May 2, 2022. The octopus suckers are made of plastic caps and yellow plastic bags and were made to raise awareness of the ban on plastics. Tim Falcon | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

It was first seen at the city’s Green Day 2021 festival in October and has been moved to the park where it is more visible to the abundance of foot traffic.

This is where the Leviathan stands out, its white plastic body contrasting against the green surrounding it.

Earlier in the week, a curious family slowly approached the beast unsure of what to do with it, trying to peer inside through the plastic eyes.

“It’s not a transparent window, sorry,” Bachalis told the family with a light laugh. “It takes everyone by surprise.”

People can enter the monster’s body from the back where there are pamphlets with information about banning plastic bags. There’s even a QR code that will take them to the Hammonton Green Committee website for additional information.

Leviathan

Dan Bachalis, chairman of the Hammonton Environmental Commission, stands inside the Leviathan in Lake Hammonton Park, Monday, May 2, 2022. Single-use plastic bags are tied to chicken wire to make up its body and were designed to raise awareness of the ban on plastics. Tim Falcon | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

He said he’s seen families, adults and children walking around and studying the octopus, then entering its belly to read the material.

“It had an impact,” he said, of the awareness it brought to the city.

Bachalis has had his own plastic bag ban since attending Boston University. He explained that during his undergrad years there was a lot of earth consciousness going around and he realized the environment had to be the number one priority.

“If the economy fails, the environment will continue, but if the environment fails, all bets are off. Nothing good will happen for humanity if the environment fails.

Today he uses the same white canvas bag with blue trim, although the handles are a bit frayed, that he has used since 1973. He uses it for groceries, clothes, and other shopping-related errands. store.

Leviathan

Dan Bachalis, chairman of the Hammonton Environmental Commission, holds his canvas bag he has used since 1973 for groceries, clothes and other things, Monday, May 2, 2022. Tim Falcon | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

“I kind of trained myself to have as many reusable bags on hand as possible.”

Bachalis believes that over the past 50 years we have dramatically improved the way we treat the environment and that banning single-use plastic is long overdue.

“We still stink of it, really terribly,” he said, citing the untested and undisclosed plastics that enter our environment every year.

The ban is an example of how “we at least have one more point on the treatment of the environment”.

But there’s still work to be done to get out of the throwaway mentality, he said. There are opportunities to reuse everyday items – from bread bags to kitty litter and bringing your own take-out container when you go out to eat.

“Individual efforts are really important,” he said, although they can have a small impact. On a larger scale, it is the awareness he hopes to create to get people to take action at the higher levels.

Leviathan

Dan Bachalis, chairman of the Hammonton Environmental Commission, looks at the Leviathan in Hammonton Lake Park, Monday, May 2, 2022. The beast is made of single-use plastic and was designed to raise awareness of the plastic ban. Tim Falcon | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

He encourages people to speak up if they have an idea and to get involved, just like the Kienzles family. Without them, the monster would not have been born.

“People in the environmental community will be listening.”

Leviathan’s life at the park is coming to an end now that the ban is in effect. In about a month it will be dismantled and the bags will be recycled for use in other things.

But as long as he remains, Bachalis said it would be a reminder to people that the ban is now here – so go for it.

Leviathan

Dan Bachalis, chairman of the Hammonton Environmental Commission, touches the eye of the Leviathan in Hammonton Lake Park, Monday, May 2, 2022. The octopus is made of single-use plastic and was designed to raise awareness of the banning of plastics. Tim Falcon | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Leviathan

The front of Leviathan in Hammonton Lake Park, Monday May 2, 2022. The octopus suckers are made of plastic caps and yellow plastic bags and were made to raise awareness of the ban on plastics. Tim Falcon | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Leviathan

The front of Leviathan in Hammonton Lake Park, Monday May 2, 2022. The octopus suckers are made of plastic caps and yellow plastic bags and were made to raise awareness of the ban on plastics. Tim Falcon | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Leviathan

Dan Bachalis, Chairman of the Hammonton Environmental Commission, looks at the Leviathan in Hammonton Lake Park, Monday May 2, 2022. The octopus is made of single-use plastic and was designed to raise awareness of the plastic ban. Tim Falcon | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

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Tim Hawk can be reached at thawk@njadvancemedia.com. Follow Tim on Instagram @photog_hawk.

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