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Trillions of Pieces of Plastic Make Ocean 'Smog'

Most of the plastic in the ocean is smaller than your pinkie fingernail - microbeads, and pieces of broken plastic.
5 Gyres Institute

You may have heard that there’s a floating island of plastic trash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The truth is, there isn’t. In fact, the problem is far more insidious, more akin to smog. One estimate found that there are hundreds of thousands of tons of plastic - more than five trillion pieces, most about the size of a grain of rice - floating around in the world’s oceans.

Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen met - and got engaged - on a research cruise studying ocean plastics. Marcus made a ring out of fishing line they'd found, and the two pledged to dedicate their lives to each other, and the problem of plastic pollution.

Shortly thereafter, they built a raft out of plastic water bottles and Marcus drifted across the Pacific in an effort to raise public awareness. Then, Eriksen and Cummins founded the 5 Gyres Institute, a non-profit research and education organization focused on ocean plastics.

5 Gyres has launched 17 scientific expeditions to all corners of the ocean, most recently, the Arctic. Everywhere they go, Marcus says, they find plastic.

Cleaning up trillions of tiny pieces of plastic doesn't seem like a realistic solution. Instead, Cummins and Eriksen say their focus is on stopping plastic pollution at the source. They were involved in getting plastic microbeads banned from personal care products, and they encourage everyone to reduce their use of single-use disposable plastics.

The husband-and-wife team will be at Salt Pond Visitor Center, in Eastham, for a showing of the film Plastic Paradise on Monday, October 10th at 2pm.

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