Junk Raft: An Ocean Voyage and a Rising Tide of Activism to Fight Plastic Pollution

On June 1, 2008, environmental activist Marcus Eriksen and his friend Joel set sail from Long Beach, Calif., toward Hawaii. Their vessel was far from ordinary; built from more than 200,000 plastic soda bottles, an old airplane fuselage, pieces of old fishing nets, ropes and cargo straps, and several salvaged masts, the contraption was aptly named Junk Raft. Eriksen wanted to bring badly needed attention to the overwhelming amount of plastic found in the world's oceans. He planned to sail Junk through the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, one of many swirling masses around the world, where plastic pollution gathers in the sea. This is not a stable mass of identifiable pieces, but a soup of minute micro and macro particles that creates an underwater fog of plastic residue.

Eriksen's story is an adventure of two men battling the weather, lack of food and entropy to cross a vast ocean; it is also meant to raise awareness of the role plastic plays in our environment. He discusses the effects plastic has on the sea creatures that ingest it and humanity's place in this food chain. He also specifies the responsibility manufacturers and designers need to assume to create truly recyclable plastics, and highlights the efforts of activists to prevent more plastics from finding their way into the oceans. Eriksen's adept ability to combine personal exploration with scientific data makes this an entertaining, highly informative read sure to change the way one interacts with ubiquitous plastics. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

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