Environmentalist, Scientist, Volunteer, Waste Collector



"Today’s society is becoming increasingly aware of the various consequences of globalization and the over-consumption that characterizes our current lifestyles"

SEA Plastics in an association created in 2016 by 3 students from AgroParisTech. Passionate about the sea and sailing, Simon, Ernest and Aymeric then had the idea of using 6 months of their lives, and their scientific background, to study and defend this environment which is so precious to them: the sea. Since then, every year, 4 to 5 students follow in their footsteps.

Could you please elaborate on your background and the nature of your work?

SEA Plastics is an association created in 2016 by 3 AgroParisTech students. Passionate about the sea and sailing, Simon, Ernest and Aymeric came up with the idea of using 6 months of their lives, and their scientific background, to study and defend this environment that is so precious to them: the sea. Every year since then, 4 to 5 students have followed in their footsteps. This year, 2024, marks the start of the 8th Sea Plastics expedition, with 5 new student crew members. Lena, Angélique, Thibaud, Martin and Arnaud will be taking to the sea with the main aim of continuing the fight against microplastic ocean pollution. This new team is mainly made up of agricultural engineering students in their gap year, who have decided to devote part of their year to this magnificent project.
As agricultural engineering students, we all hope to specialize in marine biology or marine environment protection when we graduate. This project therefore enables us to link our professional project with an ambitious associative project!
Through our expedition, we’ll be carrying out both scientific and awareness-raising activities on the subject of microplastic pollution in the oceans. In fact, we’re partnering with the Ocean Eye association and the Toulon University laboratory, where we’ll be taking samples of microplastic-laden water at various strategic geographical points, with the aim of studying various aspects of microplastic (concentration, position in the water layer, biofilm, displacement). In addition to the scientific aspect of our expedition, our second objective is to raise awareness among as many citizens as possible throughout our journey. We therefore carry out awareness-raising missions in schools, marinas and festivals, where we present our own workshops on the issue of microplastics to a wide range of audiences, from young schoolchildren to the elderly. We have also produced a film about our 2018 expedition, which we show at various conferences we attend.

What initially brought your attention to the issue of plastic pollution?

Today’s society is becoming increasingly aware of the various consequences of globalization and the over-consumption that characterizes our current lifestyles. Plastic pollution is the perfect example of the consequences of our consumption patterns, which can be described as polluting and unsustainable for our environment. Today, the general public is largely aware of plastic pollution, but very little of its hidden face, microplastic pollution. This lack of knowledge has prompted us to highlight it through our expedition. Our aim is to help people understand and spread the word about this pollution and its potential effects on our health and that of the oceans, which are virtually unknown today.

How do you envision that your scientific project contributes to raising awareness about significant environmental challenges?

Our scientific project is helping to raise awareness of oceanic plastic pollution, as one of our main scientific actions is to participate in the creation of various interactive maps enabling direct observation of the movements and concentrations of microplastics in the Mediterranean Sea. These maps are of major importance as they are used to support decision-making at international events for the protection of the oceans.

What areas within the realm of plastic pollution do you believe warrant further investigation?

Plastic pollution in our oceans is, after all, a field of research that is still relatively unexplored in our society. In our view, there are so many possible areas of research into the problem of microplastics, ranging from the study of the effects of ingestion on animal health, to studies into the decomposition of plastic in water. Indeed, this pollution affects the entire food chain, from ocean plankton to the top of the chain, i.e. mankind. The stakes involved in the scientific study of oceanic plastic pollution are numerous, and of major importance for our health and that of the oceans.

Can you provide more details about the logistics and planning involved in this year’s trip?

Our expedition will take place aboard our sailboat, the “Aotearoa”, an 11-meter monohull (model: Oceanis 390). We’ll be living on this boat from late March to mid-July 2024, sailing along the French coast of the Gulf of Lion, the Spanish coast to the Balearic Islands, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Italy and the Côte d’Azur. This 4-month trip will enable us to cover as much of the Mediterranean coastline as possible, with the aim of taking all the samples we’ve planned, as well as all our awareness-raising days.
We’ll be promoting a lifestyle that’s as respectful of the environment as possible, by consuming local products obtained in our ports of call, while aiming for “zero plastic” on all our purchased products. In addition to our missions, we’ll also be setting an example of a healthier lifestyle that respects the marine environment.

In your opinion, what are the fundamental qualities of a contemporary hero?

In our view, a contemporary hero has become aware of the social, environmental and economic issues affecting our society today, and is acting in favor of these issues. In a fast-developing world, the wealth gap is widening and inequalities are emerging. The interest of a contemporary hero is therefore to understand these issues and to act in their favor, in order to participate in the transition to a more sustainable, egalitarian and economically viable society.

Where do you typically turn for reliable information and updates regarding plastic pollution?

To keep up to date with the latest bibliography and news on ocean plastic pollution, we are very active on the various social networks where many associations publish their latest news. We also take part in conferences and symposia on ocean pollution that bring together a wide range of scientific players. It’s extremely important for us to acquire knowledge about ocean plastic pollution (innovations, research, data, events) in order to disseminate reliable information, particularly during our awareness-raising campaigns.

What are your aspirations for the future?

We’re all currently studying to become agricultural engineers, and we’d all like to work in a profession that’s of real value to us. Indeed, we want to play a part in the transition of our world to make it more sustainable and liveable for future generations. For most of us, this means working in the marine sector (ecology, biotechnology, marine resource management).

Are there any books, podcasts, or films you’d recommend to broaden our understanding of these issues?

We highly recommend watching the documentary “Oceans, le mystère plastique” directed by Vincent Perazio (production: Arte France; co-production: Tara expeditions foundation) in 2016. This documentary traces the journey of plastic through our oceans, studying the fate of the many invisible fragments of plastic present in the sea. This documentary really brings home the global problem of plastic in our oceans.

“A Plastic Ocean” is also a documentary that takes a global approach to the problem of plastic in the oceans. Released in 2016, it is undoubtedly the most accomplished of all the documentaries dealing with this environmental issue. The film also explores the range of possible solutions to curb the catastrophe caused by plastic in our oceans.


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