A comprehensive investigation of industrial plastic pellets on beaches across the Laurentian Great Lakes and the factors governing their distribution


In 2018-19, the Synthetic Collective sampled from 66 beaches on the shores of the Laurentian Great Lakes. We collected 12,595 industrial plastic pellets from 66 10x1m sq quadrats. Also known as nurdles or “mermaids’ tears,” pellets are the feedstock of industry, and are melted into plastic consumer objects. Pellet collection, sorting, and characterization was a painstaking and lengthy process. Following the goals of the Synthetic Collective, artists and scientists worked together on the project, and the results were translated into this science article, available from Science of the Total Environment. In January 2021, the same dataset will be used in the exhibition Plastic Heart: Surface the Whole Way Through, curated by the Synthetic Collective.

2020. Patricia Corcoran, Johanna de Haan Ward, Ian Arturo, Sara Belontz, Tegan Moore, Carolyn Hill-Svehla, Kirsty Robertson, Kelly Wood, Kelly Jazvac. “A Comprehensive Investigation of Industrial Plastic Pellets on Beaches across the Laurentian Great Lakes and the Factors Governing their Distribution.” Science of the Total Environment.

About Kirsty Robertson

Kirsty Robertson is Associate Professor of contemporary art and Director of museum and curatorial studies at Western University, Canada.

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