Scientists unveiled a large vortex-shaped sculpture on October 15, 2014 in Poynter Park in St. Petersburg, Florida. Though from afar, it has a strange beauty to it, closer examination might create a different response from its viewers. The sculpture has ominous undertones and is meant to depict something menacing.

Made mainly of trash found in nearby waterways and plastic panneling, this 30 by 40 foot sculpture has a goal to get people thinking about their consumption and trash habits. The sculpture is meant to depict a swirling current, called a gyre, a kind of current that commonly catches and accumulates trash left near the ocean and other waterways.

Frank Muller-Karger, a professor at USF’s College of Marine Science, expressed their reasoning for the project. “We’re studying the effects of this trash on marine creatures, and so what we wanted was to really have a way to bring the problem to people, to have them understand.”

Artists in Georgia worked in collaboration with Georgia State University and several other organizations with help from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant. They built the sculpture using plastic debris found in nearby bodies of water, including but not limited to Tampa Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway. Discarded food packages were melted together along with soda bottles and other pieces of litter. They also created marine animal sculptures from items such as detergent containers that were picked up during their cleanup and search for debris.

The overall goal would be for people to see the sculpture and understand that their actions have an effect on the environment. Something as simple as leaving an empty water bottle on the beach is an environmental concern. That bottle can (and probably will) make its way into the ocean, where it will stay there for years and years, harming innocent animals. Even the smallest actions that many of us don’t think about can add up and have profound effects on the world we live in.

“I think people are very easily disconnected with what’s in the ocean and their action,” said Amandine Drouet, one of the Altlanta-based artists who worked on the sculpture. “We wanted to create something that’s more physical and hopefully have people have an experience that gives them a chance to contemplate and think about their actions.”

The trash sculpture will be on display until Earth Day, when it will move to Atlanta for various Earth Day events on Wednesday, April 22, 2015. The sculpture will then move back to St. Petersburg for the 2015 science festivals. Earth day began back in 1970, and it is now celebrated in more than 190 countries around the world to show support for environmental protection.