With more than 20 years experience in environmental non-profit work—including
marine conservation, coastal watershed management, and sustainability education—
Anna Cummins is an expert in the field. Her “Synthetic Sea, Synthetic Me” TEDx talk has
been viewed and shared by thousands. In 2016, Cummins announced 5 Gyres
partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency at the State Department’s “Our
After receiving an undergraduate degree from Stanford University, Cummins completed
a Masters in International Environmental Policy from the Monterey Institute for
International Studies. In 2001, she received a Sustainable Communities Leadership
fellowship to coordinate bilingual education and community relations outreach for the
non-profit Save Our Shores.
In 2007, Cummins joined the Algalita Marine Research Foundation as an education
advisor, conducting school outreach and giving public presentations on plastic marine
pollution. Through Algalita, she experienced first-hand the Great Pacific Gyre, a massive
vortex fueled by oceanic currents that sweeps plastic pollution from land and out of
sight, shredding and concentrating it in the middle of the ocean. On that voyage, she also
met Marcus Eriksen, with whom she would go on to found The 5 Gyres Institute in
Their goal was to put plastic pollution on the international agenda. To draw attention to
the problem, Eriksen rode the currents 2,600 miles for 88 days from California to
Hawaii on the Junk Raft, a vessel they built from 15,000 plastic bottles. One year later,
he and Cummins set off on a bicycle-powered speaking tour from Vancouver to
Mexico—stopping in Big Sur to marry wearing recycled plastic attire.
Beginning in 2010, 5 Gyres spearheaded a series of scientific firsts by researching
plastic in all five subtropical gyres, as well as the Great Lakes and Antarctica—sailing a
total of 50,000 miles in the process. In 2014, under Eriksen’s direction, 5 Gyres
convened eight scientists around the world to publish the first global estimate of plastic
pollution in our ocean: 5.25 trillion particles weighing in at 269,000 tons of “plastic
5 Gyres work on plastic microbead pollution in the Great Lakes that inspired a two-year
campaign that culminated in a federal ban on microbeads, which President Obama
signed into law in 2015. Cummins was elected a fellow of the Wings World Quest in
2011, and received a Golden Goody Award in 2013.
More information is at www.5gyres.org.