Most of us have heard of the great pacific garbage patch- that amorphous pile of floating waste in the Pacific Ocean that stands as a monument to humanity’s throw away culture.

But did you know that there are actually eight garbage patches in total, and five rotating garbage churns know as gyres? That’s where the 5 Gyres Oceanographic Institute gets its name.microbeads headshots

5 Gyres is a research authority on plastic pollution. Their scientists launch expedition voyages across the globe examining the impact of plastic pollution on the marine environment. As a small but dedicated group of researchers and organizers who have examined plastic pollution in depth, they’re spearheaded the international movement to educate and take action on a new threat to the world’s waters: microbeads.

Staff from VPIRG and Seventh Generation gathered at Seventh Generation’s offices at Main Street Landing to hear a presentation from 5 Gyres Lia Colabello on not only the dangers of microbead pollution, but also what we can do to beat the bead here in Vermont.

These tiny orbs used as artificial exfoliates in home health and beauty products don’t just put plastic on your skin or in your gums- it also rinses it down the drain. The beads are so small they evade waste-water treatment filters and wind up at the bottom of waterways. Once introduced to a marine environment, microbeads are impossible to remove. 5 Gyres has extrapolated that the United States flushes around 311 tons of microbeads into the ocean every year. As microbeads are composed of petroleum-based plastics, this could be likened to an annual 311 ton oil spill. 

Lia shared findings from 5Gyres examination of the Great Lakes, a precedent setting study that revealed a staggering amount of microbeads in the waters of lakes Erie, Huron, and Superior. This prompted Illinois’ Legislature to pass the first state-wide ban on the sale of microbeads.

With help from the experts at 5 Gyres, VPIRG is gearing up to fund a similar study of Lake Champlain. But we don’t have to wait for results to know its time to follow Illinois’ leads and stand up for our precious natural resources by banning microbeads. Click here to sign VPIRG’s petition to Vermont lawmakers.

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