News media brought the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”—the famous swirling gyre of plastic pollution in the ocean—into the public consciousness. But when Marcus Eriksen cofounded the 5 Gyres Institute with his wife, Anna Cummins, and set out to study the world’s oceans with hundreds of volunteers, they discovered a “plastic smog” of microscopic debris that permeates our oceans globally, defying simple clean-up efforts. What’s more, these microplastics and their toxic chemistry have seeped into the food chain, threatening marine life and humans alike.
In his book Junk Raft Marcus tells the story of his team’s fight to solve the problem of plastic pollution. Against long odds and common sense, he and his co-navigator, Joel Paschal, construct a “junk raft” made of plastic trash and set themselves adrift from Los Angeles to Hawaii. On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with Marcus about what he hoped to learn and prove from his unconventional voyage and his continuing activism as a result.