Anna Cummins – What to Do with 5.25 Trillion Particles of Plastic Smog?

Executive Director Anna Cummins and her husband Marcus Eriksen co-founded The 5 Gyres Institute, dedicated to engaging people in policy and design solutions to end the global threat of plastic pollution. Our oceans are steadily filling with plastic – 5.25 trillion particles globally. In this talk, Anna shares how she co-founded 5 Gyres to explore plastic on a global level, and leverage their science to drive solutions. Recent 5 Gyres findings are driving a nation ban on a previously unknown source of pollution – microbeads – lurking in many of our personal care products.

This case study details the background and influences for a plastic bag ban in the town of Amherst, outlines the steps taken from planning to passage, and addresses roadblocks and missteps that may be avoided with the implementation of future bans. This document not only serves as a guide, but also as an inspiration for additional local action in Massachusetts and across the country. No matter the national political climate or attitude towards environmental issues, local action is always possible, and change is usually easier than you think. Think globally, act locally!


Goverments play a critical role in moving the world to a no-waste system when companies are not otherwise motivated to change their ways. Policies governing the use of plastics are the most effective way to address the problem, and they are becoming more common from the municipal to the national level. Many counties, states and cities are banning or otherwise regulating the use of plastic. These policies often focus on the most common waste items found in worldwide beach cleanups: utensils, food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, plastic bottle caps, plastic grocery bags, other plastic bags, straws/stirrers, plastic containers, plastic lids and foam takeout containers. Since all of these items are used once and then thrown away, a logical starting point is to target single-use plastic items.

The Policy Solutions Fact Sheet explains the importance of policy as a way to reduce plastic waste, and provides examples of places where legislation has been successful in reducing the use of plastic.

The Plastic Atlas has the hard facts, data and figures to prove that the story of plastic that industry is telling us is a myth. We need urgent and drastic reductions in plastic production and consumption and regulation at the local, national and global level that tackle plastic pollution at the source.