Ocean Pollution: Race for Water Odyssey Demonstrates Widespread Plastic Pollution

R4WO Beach Sampling

Race for Water Odyssey (R4WO) has published its initial observations drawn from data collected during its first expedition to establish the first comprehensive assessment of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. The combined analysis of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) and R4WO has concluded that plastic pollution is widespread and in large quantities.

Race for Water Odyssey’s Scientific Advisor sampling microplastics according to NOAA’s protocol. Azores. © Race for Water 2015

During the first six months of the expedition, R4WO took samples from beaches on several different islands located in waste accumulation areas in the North Atlantic Ocean and the North and South Pacific (also known as gyres or waste vortex).

Microplastics samples being analyzed at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland. © Race for Water 2015
Microplastics samples being analyzed at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland. © Race for Water 2015

EPFL’s Central Environmental Laboratory is currently running a typology analysis of the plastic samples collected from the different beaches. After this initial phase, the samples will be handed over to the University of Bordeaux in France to run eco toxicity tests on fish eggs, then to the HEIA in Fribourg, Switzerland, where they will study the absorbed pollutants in the micro plastic. In addition, R4WO sent plankton samples collected during the expedition to the USA in late August as part of the Plankton Planet science project.

Alarming preliminary results

Preliminary results from the first three stopovers in the Azores, Bermuda (North Atlantic waste accumulation zone) and Easter Island (South Pacific) delivered some alarming initial findings. For the moment, these findings are based on the categories of debris sampled; further studies of the types of plastic collected are yet to be completed. Firstly, the samples collected demonstrated that all three islands are polluted by macro (>2.5mm) and —> Read More