Debris from 2011 Tsunami has reached the shores of Alaska

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Tsunami Trash, and Other Debris, Removed from Shores of Alaska

A monumental task is playing out along Alaska's shores as a massive cleanup effort years in the making finally gets underway.

Alaska's remote beaches have long been a magnet for trash, but the 2011 Japan tsunami made the situation even worse. The disaster sent an estimated 5 million tons of trash across the Pacific Ocean, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Environmental Health. Some of that debris reached Alaska, creating a web of fishing line, styrofoam, broken trees, fuel drums and urethane scattered along the beaches.

"You're basically standing in a land fill out here," Chris Pallister, president of the nonprofit Gulf of Alaska Keeper, told Alaska Public Media in 2013.

As more trash piled up, environmental groups and the state worked for years to secure funding. Now, this week, the cleanup effort begins.

A project of this scope is virtually unheard of in Alaska, according to the Associated Press. Many of the project sites are remote and rugged. Crews working at sites like Kayak and Montague islands in Prince William Sound, for example, get there by boat and sleep onboard.

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