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The latest on plastic pollution


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Reykjavik, Iceland: The 5 Gyres Institute arrived at Brokey Marina in Reykjavik the morning of Saturday, June 28th after completing a three week plastic pollution research voyage from Bermuda across the North Atlantic and sub polar Gyres. 5 Gyres Co-Founder and Research Director Dr. Marcus Eriksen, who is half Icelandic, served as expedition leader and principle investigator, joined by a crew of 13 professional sailors, scientists, advocates, artists, filmmakers, photographers, and journalists.

The preliminary findings are stark: microplastic particles were present in every surface sample collected across 2500 nautical miles from Bermuda to Iceland – as well as evidence of microplastics below the surface – an area of plastic pollution science that is still largely unknown.

“As we’ve seen in our other expeditions across the five subtropical gyres or “garbage patches”, plastic pollution is ubiquitous in the world’s oceans” reported Dr. Eriksen by Satellite phone. “Even in the subpolar gyre, which contains far less plastic than other regions we’ve surveyed, we’re still finding particles in every sample. Plastic pollution is the new baseline for our ocean environment.”


5 Gyres is one of the leading research institutes on ocean plastics and the first to complete research in all five gyres. Says Carolynn Box, 5 Gyres Research Coordinator who is also on the expedition, “5 Gyres is on the frontier of oceanic plastic pollution, conducting first hand research to discover garbage patches around the world. We’re working to understand and communicate more about plastics impacts on marine ecosystems, as well as engage communities in solutions on land. To truly understand the issue we have to monitor the across the ocean, even in remote seas like the area south of Iceland.”

5 Gyres uses scientific research to drive plastic pollution solutions on land – an approach that has driven some recent, positive results. In 2012, researching plastic in the Great Lakes, 5 Gyres discovered high concentrations of plastic microbeads traced back to personal care products that use beads as exfoliates – in facial scrubs and other cosmetics. This data, published by Dr. Eriksen in the Journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, coupled with successful grassroots organizing is the basis for 5 Gyres’ advocacy campaign to ‘Ban The Bead.’ 5 Gyres has now engaged several of the companies that manufacture these products to agree to a voluntary phase out, and co-authored a bill that recently passed in the State of Illinois, and been introduced in CA, NY, and MN, to ban the sale of microbead-containing products.

In addition to searching for microbeads on their voyage, 5 Gyres has been researching the subsurface distribution of microplastics, impact of plastics on foraging fish, and testing new collection equipment at sea.

“We have been studying the water column to look at plastics below the waves, as well looking at the toxins this plastic absorbs, what kind of fish are eating them, and how this might affect a major food source for humans worldwide”, explains Dr. Eriksen. Eriksen and the crew also gathered data for other scientists working the issue across the globe.

“Research is costly at sea. When we have the opportunity to do our work, I seek collaborations with the global scientific network, collecting samples for my colleagues who concentrate on related fields of study to plastic pollution. With these partnerships, we can further our scientific understanding of plastic pollution while managing the costs associated with data collection in the most remote parts of the world.”


Dr. Eriksen and the crew are prepared to report on their preliminary findings. Please contact 5 Gyres co-founder and Executive Director Anna Cummins, who is on the ground in Reykjavik, to set up interviews.

Anna Cummins, Executive Director


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4 Responses

  1. Rosemary says:

    Inspiring work. I am following it from Peru, through the work of Ines Yabar. I am encouraging my local shops not to offer plastic bags, for a start.

    I look forward to reading your findings.

    Best regards,


  2. joni says:

    Congratulatioins on reaching your destination. Well done… as they say in Ireland.

    Enjoy your visit there.
    joni and Jane

  3. Greg Rajewski says:

    Congratulations to the entire team! I look forward to the day when research like yours is no longer required.

    Here’s wishing everyone a safe return to all your “home ports” in the coming days and weeks.

    - Greg (Montreal, Canada)

  4. David Alexander says:

    Phenomenal research. My deepest gratitude for embarking on these scientific voyages of discovery. May your journeys reach the hearts and minds of all peoples of the world.

    Safe travels,

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