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Meet Marcus Eriksen of 5 Gyres Institute in Culver City

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marcus Eriksen.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Marcus. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Before the public was talking about ocean plastics, before the mythology of garbage patches entered our consciousness, I had been to Midway Atoll with 14 students to learn about seabird ecology. Instead, we spent a week pulling plastic waste out of the chests of dead birds. It was life-changing. Ten years later in 2010 my wife Anna Cummins and I met and decided to begin the 5 Gyres Institute to answer basic questions about plastic pollution in the worlds oceans. At that time no one had explored the southern hemisphere oceans at all, or the western N. Pacific or eastern N. Atlantic. Everyone was now talking about ocean garbage patches, but no one had been to them all. We began 5 Gyres with the mission to tell that story. It took eight years, 20 expeditions, and over 100,000 miles of sailing to tell a scientific story. We published our work and used science to drive solutions.

Has it been a smooth road?
The biggest struggle for a small non-profit is always funding, but our size also gives us mobility and the ability to make quick decisions in a new direction, which big institutions struggle to do. It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve been effective. Take for example our discovery of plastic microbeads from facial scrubs polluting the Great Lakes. We published our results in a scientific journal in 2013 and then three years later President Obama signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act. Science to Solutions – a federal bill – in 3 years!

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
We are a small passionate team that aims to save our oceans from plastic. Our strength is a willingness to collaborate with everyone, and an unwillingness to compromise on values.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Our work to bring reason and rationality to how we treat our oceans so that they remain healthy to humanity and the biosphere for centuries to come is where we are headed. “Constant Pressure Over Time” is our strategy. The industries are keen to keep fighting us on the science and policy front, but we’re seeing single-use plastics being banned around the world. They cause significant demonstrated harm, so they need to go. Plastic bags, bottles, straws, wrappers and chip bags, all single-use plastics, need to be replaced with novel materials or ways of delivering goods to customers that don’t require packaging.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 5 Gyres Institute
    LOS ANGELES, CA, 90016,
  • Phone: 323-395-1843
  • Email:
  • Facebook:

Image Credit:

(Personal photo) Co-founder Marcus Eriksen sharing the latest science on ocean plastics with national media. (All other photos) . 5 Gyres Institute volunteers on the 2019 S. Pacific expedition to study plastic marine pollution collecting plastics on land and sea.

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