Much of what you’ve heard about plastic pollution may be wrong. Instead of a great island of trash, the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made up of manmade debris spread over hundreds of miles of sea—more like a soup than a floating garbage dump. Recycling is more complicated than we were taught: less than nine percent of the plastic we create is reused, and the majority ends up in the ocean. And plastic pollution isn’t confined to the open ocean: it’s in much of the air we breathe and the food we eat.
In Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to the Plastic Crisis, journalist Erica Cirino brings readers on a globe-hopping journey to meet the scientists and activists telling the real story of the plastic crisis. From the deck of a plastic-hunting sailboat with a disabled engine, to the labs doing cutting-edge research on microplastics and the chemicals we ingest, Cirino paints a full picture of how plastic pollution is threatening wildlife and human health. Thicker Than Water reveals that the plastic crisis is also a tale of environmental injustice, as poorer nations take in a larger share of the world’s trash, and manufacturing chemicals threaten predominantly Black and low-income communities.
There is some hope on the horizon, with new laws banning single-use items and technological innovations to replace plastic in our lives. But Cirino shows that we can only fix the problem if we face its full scope and begin to repair our throwaway culture. Thicker Than Water is an eloquent call to reexamine the systems churning out waves of plastic waste.
About the Author
Erica Cirino is the Communications Manager of the Plastic Pollution Coalition and the author of Thicker Than Water (Island Press, 2021). She has spent the last decade working as a science writer, author, and artist exploring the intersection of the human and nonhuman worlds.
"Timely… strikingly evocative… Thicker Than Water [is] so distinctive beyond the litany of grim statistics and accounts of plastic pollution and its impacts across the globe.” — UnDark
"In Thicker Than Water, journalist and photographer Erica Cirino steers us through the true scope of the plastic pollution crisis. Cirino is a talented, lyrical writer who gets her hands dirty" — TNC's Cool Green Science
"This book will take you on a globe-hopping journey to meet the scientists and activists telling the real story of the plastic crisis….an eloquent call to arms because we can only fix the problem if we know its full scope and then completely turn our backs on the throwaway culture." — Coast Magazine
“By moving the plastic crisis documentation from theory to activism and community impact, [Cirino’s] book documents environmental injustices, national choice and their impacts, and the connections between racial prejudice and contamination, offering new insights into all these topics.”
— Donovan's Literary Services
"In this time of multiple environmental catastrophes, you can superficially Google and despair or you can dive deep, inform yourself, and find your point of entry into meaningful action. Erica Cirino’s Thicker Than Water very much belongs in the latter camp. It really is the book you need to read if you want to understand ocean plastic pollution but also be part of the solution." — Paul Greenberg, bestselling author of 'Four Fish and The Climate Diet'
"Thicker Than Water takes you on an engaging journey through the many challenges of plastic pollution and diverse emerging solutions. Told through Erica’s own personal experiences of epic sailing adventures at sea and connections made on land, it’s a comprehensive guide to the plastic problem and what can be done to tackle it." — Emily Penn, director of eXXpedition
"As I travel around the world aboard SeaLegacy 1, I can see with my own eyes the crisis Cirino so eloquently describes in the pages of Thicker Than Water. The ocean plastic pollution problem is solvable and it will require us to understand how it came about and who the culprits are. Thicker Than Water is an engaging narrative exploration of an issue that affects us all." — Cristina Mittermeier, cofounder of SeaLegacy
"Erica Cirino traveled 10,000 nautical miles to bring readers an up-close look at plastics’ full scope, from the open sea to communities protesting more plants and more pollution. Cirino compellingly narrates the complexities of plastics’ unfolding history, as communities, states, and nations figure out how society might change its relationship to this enduring material." — Rebecca Altman, PhD, writer and environmental sociologist