Microplastics Research

Turtle Island Restoration Network has been researching microplastics in the Galveston area for four years, revealing exorbitant amounts of microplastic, nurdles and fragments along the beach.

Microplastics are small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long that can be harmful to the ocean, marine species, and even human health.

Microplastics come from a variety of sources, including from larger plastic debris that degrades into smaller and smaller pieces. In addition, microbeads, a type of microplastic, are very tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants to health and beauty products, such as some cleansers and toothpastes. These tiny particles easily pass through water filtration systems and end up in the ocean and Great Lakes, posing a potential threat to aquatic life. Microplastics have been detected in marine organisms from plankton to whales, in commercial seafood, and even in drinking water. To further complicate matters, microplastics in the ocean can bind with other harmful chemicals before being ingested by marine organisms. While the impact ingesting microplastics has on humans is unknown, research indicates the bioaccumulation of microplastics in the food web will eventually be greater.

📹 credit: Alyssa McLeland

Turtle Island Restoration Network is working with other partners along the Gulf of Mexico to create a snapshot of the entire issue of microplastics in the environment. Locally, we are expanding our research with the help of Moody Gardens, Ball High School, Oppe Elementary and our interns and volunteers. We will sample five sites around Galveston Island monthly, for two years, in an attempt to understand how these areas accumulate various types of microplastics and the impacts of differing weather conditions, watersheds, currents and population changes. With wide-ranging community outreach, this program will educate and inspire the public to help advocate for policy change and on a personal level, make lifestyle alterations to help us fight to save our blue-green planet.

Our Impact


Water samples processed with Flower Garden National Marine Sanctuary


Percent of freshwater fish studies have found microplastics in


Microplastics per square mile of Great Lakes water

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