Executive Briefings

Here's How Hundreds of Tons of Plastic Trash End Up in Arctic Ocean

Plastic trash is now so ubiquitous that researchers have found hundreds of tons of it floating in the Arctic Ocean.

It may not sound like much, but it's a surprising amount given the area's sparse population. The researchers who measured the plastic debris in the waters near the north pole described it as "widespread and abundant," according to a study last month in the journal in Science Advances.

“We already knew that the marine plastic pollution was high at tropical and temperate latitudes,” said study leader Andrés Cózar, an ecologist at the University of Cadiz in Spain. “Now, we also know that the plastic waste is extending up to the poles.”

Cózar and his colleagues estimated that 63 percent of the ice-free Arctic Ocean is “slightly polluted” with various types of plastic debris, including fishing line, microbeads and fragments of plastic products. Of the plastic trash that makes it to the Arctic, 95 percent of the plastic “dead ends” in either the Greenland Sea or the Barents Sea, north of Scandinavia.

Although the world’s other ocean “garbage patches” are significantly larger than the plastic accumulation in the Arctic, the average concentrations of plastic found there were comparable to those found in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.

In a 2014 study, Cózar and his team estimated those oceans contain 10,000 to 35,000 tons of plastic pollution, which almost never fully decomposes on its own. Their latest findings suggest 3 percent of that global total is floating in the Arctic.

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It may not sound like much, but it's a surprising amount given the area's sparse population. The researchers who measured the plastic debris in the waters near the north pole described it as "widespread and abundant," according to a study last month in the journal in Science Advances.

“We already knew that the marine plastic pollution was high at tropical and temperate latitudes,” said study leader Andrés Cózar, an ecologist at the University of Cadiz in Spain. “Now, we also know that the plastic waste is extending up to the poles.”

Cózar and his colleagues estimated that 63 percent of the ice-free Arctic Ocean is “slightly polluted” with various types of plastic debris, including fishing line, microbeads and fragments of plastic products. Of the plastic trash that makes it to the Arctic, 95 percent of the plastic “dead ends” in either the Greenland Sea or the Barents Sea, north of Scandinavia.

Although the world’s other ocean “garbage patches” are significantly larger than the plastic accumulation in the Arctic, the average concentrations of plastic found there were comparable to those found in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.

In a 2014 study, Cózar and his team estimated those oceans contain 10,000 to 35,000 tons of plastic pollution, which almost never fully decomposes on its own. Their latest findings suggest 3 percent of that global total is floating in the Arctic.

Read Full Article