What's the strangest piece of trash you've ever found on the beach? Whether it was as small as a bottle cap or as random as a Pez dispenser, we've all stumbled upon this plastic garbage -- and probably overlooked it.
The Anchorage Museum is shedding light on marine plastics through a 7,500-square-foot exhibition titled "Gyre: The Plastic Ocean." It's intended to bridge the gap between science and art, man and the ocean -- and put this epidemic into perspective. Some of the trash featured in the 80 pieces of artwork was collected during a 2013 scientific expedition that examined marine debris in Alaska. The exhibit also features interpretive panels, films and interactive displays, so there is something for everyone.
“Humankind has certainly imposed its footprint on this landscape, but we have not ruined it,” Anchorage Museum director and exhibition curator Julie Decker said in a press release. “Plastic is a modern material, so this is a modern and recent problem. That means there are things we can do, individually and collectively, to reverse the impacts.”
Marine plastic debris impacts the environment, economy and human health in a variety of ways, according to the EPA. For example, fishing line can catch a boat's propellors and cause damage, or entangle with marine animals; sea turtles can mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and consume them; and tires can sink to the seafloor and smother coral reefs. There aren't exact estimates on how much marine plastic debris is in the ocean, but the Ocean Conservancy collected 10 million pounds of trash in one day during its 2012 International Coastal Cleanup.
Check out these photos below for a glimpse inside "Gyre: The Plastic Ocean." The exhibit opened in early February and will run until September 6, 2014.