SEATTLE — It only took 45 minutes to collect a truckload of plastic garbage off a beach in LaPush, Wash.
The bouys, nets, ropes and bottles were then transported to Seattle and transformed into a 10-foot tower that is on display within the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture’s new exhibit “Plastics Unwrapped,” which opens this week.
The exhibit explores the complex role that plastic plays in our lives, by looking at the effects of plastic on our health and the environment. It highlights the destructive nature of plastic marine debris with a video of a swan gagging on a plastic bag and a stuffed northern fur seal that died on the Washington coast after being strangled by abandoned fishing line.
One display shows a couple handfuls of weather-worn bits of colorful plastic — toothpaste caps, a plastic cigar tip, a tiny red car — all of which were found in the stomachs of 100 albatross carcasses in 1966. Today scientists find hundreds of plastic pieces in a single bird.
Visit the Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Dec. 21 and Dec. 27-30 and create a sea creature ornament from discarded plastics.
Another wall is covered with 1,500 disposable plastic water bottles — the amount used every second in the United States.
But the exhibit isn’t a one-sided indictment of plastic. Other displays remind the audience of what the world was like before plastic by showing pre-plastic objects from the museum’s collection such as baby bottles made out of glass with rubber nipples and waterproof jackets made from seal skins.
The exhibit takes viewers on a journey of plastic — from how it was first developed to how it has become so ubiquitous that it’s hard to imagine a world without it. And finally the exhibit provides a look into the future at the latest scientific breakthroughs in using recycled plastics and biodegradable plastic alternatives.
The exhibit continues through May 2013 with a variety of programs and hands-on activities in the Plastics Studio Lab, an interactive space with plastic art projects and experiment (see schedule of events).
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