Plastic Waste Found For The First Time In Arctic Waters

Posted: Oct 23 2015, 2:08am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News


Plastic Waste Found for the First Time in Arctic Waters
Northern gannet (Morus bassanus) are using old fishing nets as nesting material in their nesting colony at the island Helgoland (North Sea / Germany) Credit: AWI

Most humans will never step a foot on the Arctic regions, but their plastic garbage is already there.

The Arctic is one of the last places on earth where animals can live their lives undisturbed. Most humans will never get near the Arctic. Only some nosy scientists come visit once in a while to spy on them. 

Humans still managed to litter the Arctic with plastic garbage despite not being there. 

Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have found for the first time plastic garbage at the sea surface of Arctic waters. 

At this point it is not understood how the garbage got that far north. Plastic has already been reported from stomachs of resident seabirds and Greenland sharks.

We know that plastic waste is in massive amounts in the oceans. Now we also know that the garbage is even reaching the waters farthest north. 

The findings are from an expedition on the icebreaker Polarstern to the Fram Strait, the area between East Greenland and Svalbard.

The plastic garbage reported from the Fram Strait could be leaking from a sixth garbage patch, which may be forming in the Barents Sea according to computer models.

Such accumulation zones are created when large amounts of floating plastic debris are caught by ocean currents and concentrate in the centre of gyre systems.

There are currently five garbage patches worldwide; the sixth patch in the Barents Sea is most likely in the early stages of formation. 

AWI biologist Dr Melanie Bergmann believes it may be fed by the densely populated coastal regions of Northern Europe. “It is conceivable that part of that litter then drifts even farther to the north and northwest, and reaches the Fram Strait,” states the AWI biologist, adding, “Another cause for litter in the Arctic could be the retreat of the Arctic sea ice. As a result more and more cruise liners and fish trawlers are operating further north, following the cod. Most likely, litter from the ships intentionally or accidentally ends up in the waters of the Arctic. We expect this trend to continue.”

The findings have been published in the paper titled "Observations of floating anthropogenic litter in the Barents Sea and Fram Strait, Arctic" authored by Melanie Bergmann, Nadja Sandhop, Ingo Schewe and Diederik D'Hert.

The Ocean Cleanup project by young Dutch inventor Boyan Slat we reported about in the summer is making progress. The organization undertook an expedition through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in August and the team is now analyzing the collected garbage to prepare for the cleanup. Boyan Slat tweeted earlier this wek that they are in the final preparation stages of the next scale model testing round. Tests will start next week.

Mega Expedition sample arrival

Mega Expedition samples continue to arrive in our lab...We are now urgently looking for people with some lab experience to assist in analyzing our catch during the next 3 months. If you’re interested in this position and have availability, please contact us by emailing our Lead Oceanographer Julia through the analyses take place in Delft, the Netherlands, and that financial compensation is available)Posted by The Ocean Cleanup on Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Ocean Cleanup is the most promising undertaking to clean up the ocean's garbage patches.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
Luigi Lugmayr () is the founding chief Editor of I4U News and brings over 15 years experience in the technology field to the ever evolving and exciting world of gadgets. He started I4U News back in 2000 and evolved it into vibrant technology magazine.
Luigi can be contacted directly at




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