Studying How Plastic Pollution Enters Ocean Food Supply
ANNA CUMMINS: “The gyre is formed by ocean currents that couple with the spinning of the Earth, the Earth's rotation. And what happens is that you have, effectively, a massive whirlpool, this large spinning system, where debris can accumulate.”
Anna Cummins and her husband Marcus Eriksen set up a not-for-profit group called the 5 Gyres Institute. It helps researchers with studies of plastic pollution in the oceans. Cummins says plastic bags and bottles have little or no value after they are used. Most plastic waste can be found in solid-waste landfills or along rivers. A lot of this waste also washes out to sea.
ANNA CUMMINS: “This becomes a problem in the marine environment because plastics are designed to last forever. They don't break down, they can't be digested by marine organisms and they persist in the ocean for thousands of years.”
ANNA CUMMINS: “Roughly 43 percent of all marine mammals, 86 percent of all sea turtle species and 44 percent of sea bird species have been found with plastics in or around their bodies. Thirty-five percent of the samples of fish that we collected in the north Pacific had plastic in their stomachs.”
MARCUS CUMMINS: “I had a chance to do what's called a ‘body burden analysis’ on my own blood. We looked into my blood serum to find, do I have the same chemicals that we know stick to plastic. And we found in my blood trace levels of PCBs, DDT, PFCs and higher levels of flame retardants. We don't know how these chemicals entered my body. As a woman, I know that these chemicals in my body will pass on to the next generation.”
Re-using plastics is one way. The husband and wife team say they support the wider use of biodegradable materials. They want more products re-designed so they can be used again and again. And they believe that people around the world need to understand the problem of plastic waste and its effect on the environment and our health. I'm Shirley Griffith.