Sunday, August 26, 2012

Passion for Plastic

Anna and Marcus
Wrote an article for Verge Magazine (a Canadian Eco Travel Magazine) on the plastic do-gooder couple Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen of the 5 Gyres

Passion for Plastic

An organization founded in love, the 5 Gyres is researching the world's plastic problem.
Most people don’t follow plastic to its final resting place, but Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins do—even if that grave happens to be in the middle of the ocean. Bona fide adventurers, they’ve battled hurricanes, sailed boats made of plastic bottles from California to Hawaii, and invested their honeymoon money into raising awareness about their number-one passion: plastic pollution.
Our ocean footprint was first documented in the 1990s, when Captain Charles Moore discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Located in the North Pacific Gyre, a circular pattern of currents in the ocean’s basin, the amount of plastic that had accumulated in the patch was the size of Texas.

As more people learned of the patch, questions about plastic and the ocean started floating around. Eriksen and Cummins took it upon themselves to find answers. Together, they founded the 5 Gyres, a non-profit organization that conducts research and communicates about the global impact of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

“We began the 5 Gyres because there was no one exploring the other four gyres to see if plastic existed there,” says Eriksen. His interest in plastic began during the first Gulf War. Housed in Kuwaiti ditch, he made a promise to a fellow Marine: if he made it out alive, he would build a raft and sail it down the Mississippi. But when he returned to the States, his foxhole vow was placed on the back burner while he focused on getting his PhD in Science Education.

It wasn’t until 10 years later, when the United States returned to the Middle East for another oil war that Eriksen decided to follow through on his oath. His Huck Finn journey on a raft of plastic bottles down the Mississippi took five months, during which he saw the destructive nature of plastic.

“I could always see trash. It was disgusting,” he recalls. He had finally found a war worth fighting. Eriksen began giving talks at schools and museums and when he arrived in the Gulf, he contacted Captain Moore’s Algalita Marine Research Foundation in California to continue his work.
He first met Cummins at Moore’s 60th birthday party. As a high school teacher instructing a class in environmental policy, Cummins had joined Moore’s research team in Guadalupe after seeing the Captain talk. (“I was blown away: I had no idea there was a massive amounts of trash in the Pacific,” she says.) The pair connected again at an environmental education event and Eriksen offered Cummins a job at Algalita.

“Over that first meeting we sketched our ideal situation; in retrospect it was the beginning of our non-profit,” says Cummins. The 5 Gyres was born and later, the couple began dating. During their JUNKride program, an awareness-raising bike ride from Vancouver to Tijuana, they were married. In the intimate ceremony, Cummins wore a plastic wedding dress.

Check out the entire article at

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