Scientists complete 2,000-mile Cycling Tour to Raise Awareness about Plastic Pollution


Anna Cummins and Dr. Marcus Eriksen completed a 2,000-mile cycling/speaking tour from Vancouver, Canada to the Mexico border, giving presentations about plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean.

Crossing the border into Tijuana, JUNKride completed a 2 ½ month, 2,000-mile cycling/speaking tour from Vancouver, Canada to the Mexico border, giving presentations about plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean. JUNKriders Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins, both representatives of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, shared Algalita’s research with thousands of people during their JUNKride tour, and gave away samples of the North Pacific Gyre full of plastic and plankton to 5 mayors, including Gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom. Through partnership with the Surfrider foundation, and support from Ecousable, Kashi, Patagonia, Revolution Fitness, Xtracycle, Wend Magazine, and Close The Loop, JUNKride achieved its goal of bringing the plastics issue and proposed solutions to new audiences along the West coast.

Last year, the duo joined Algalita founder Captain Charles Moore on a 4,000-mile research expedition across the North Pacific Gyre, a slow rotating oceanic current in which plastic trash accumulates. The voyage documented a twofold increase in the amount of plastic trash in the North Pacific Gyre in less than a decade, as well as new evidence of plastic fragments entering the marine foodweb. 35% of the small fish Algalita collected at sea contained plastic particles in their stomachs. This alarming discovery inspired a 3-part campaign called “Message in a Bottle”:

  • Part 1: collecting 100 ocean samples full of plastic and plankton;
  • Part 2: building JUNKraft out of 15,000 plastic bottles, which Eriksen and marine scientist Joel Paschal sailed to Hawaii;
  • Part 3: cycling 2,000 miles to give presentations and give away gyre samples to legislators and educators.

During the JUNKride tour, Eriksen and Cummins highlighted the human health impacts of plastic pollution: plastics at sea absorb pollutants such as PCBs, PAHs and pesticides, like DDT, which potentially migrate into the tissues of fish eating plastics, and wind up on our dinner plates. Along the way, Cummins had her blood drawn, to analyze for PCBs, DDT, pesticides, and flame-retardants, bringing attention to the idea that synthetic chemicals accumulate in our bodies. The two also discussed solutions to the plastic pollution issue, focusing on source prevention rather than cleanup efforts. Proactive solutions such as legislation banning single use throwaway plastics, more responsible design from producers and manufacturers, and individual lifestyle changes – switching to reusable products and reducing consumption – are critical to stopping the flow of plastic trash out to sea.

“It makes no sense to take plastic, a material designed to last forever, and make products from it designed to be thrown away”, says Eriksen. “We’ve simply got to find a better way, if we want to leave a livable legacy for the future.”