MYSTIC, Conn. — Mystic Aquarium, in partnership with Covanta, has unveiled a new interactive exhibit designed to educate visitors about how discarded marine debris can be turned into clean energy.

A large group of students from New London, Groton and Sprague were on hand for the opening of the Covanta Cove exhibit along with the first selectmen of Stonington, North Stonington, Waterford and Griswold, whose towns are part of the Southeastern Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority.

Covanta, a firm that operates waste-to-energy plants worldwide, runs the power plant in Preston.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Stonington First Selectman George Crouse used a claw mechanism to pull a miniature lobster pot and piece of rope from the pond in the exhibit and deposit it in a recycling container. That set off lights in a track that leads to a power plant with a meter. Electricity then went out through power lines to light up homes along the shore. The pond soon will be inhabited by local species of fish such as bluegills, pumpkinseeds, perch and shiners.

During Thursday’s ribbon cutting, Katie Cubina, the aquarium’s senior vice president for mission programs, said the exhibit and partnership with Covanta ties in with the aquarium’s mission to protect the world’s oceans. Andy Wood, the aquarium’s senior vice president of external affairs, added that the aquarium hopes the exhibit will “raise awareness and spur action.”

Paul Gilman, Covanta’s senior vice president and chief sustainability officer, said the firm has been approached about the marine debris problem and came up with the idea to turn it into energy.

He said this not only helps fishermen get rid of unwanted equipment but helps communities stop plastic from getting into the ocean.

“We couldn’t have a better partner than Mystic Aquarium to reach out with and do this type of education,” he said.

Covanta Cove is the aquarium’s latest effort to raise awareness about the problem of marine debris. Washed Ashore, an exhibit of large sculptures made from marine debris, has been on display since late last year.