Arctic Water Is Littered With Plastic Pieces

Posted: Apr 20 2017, 3:58pm CDT | by , Updated: Apr 20 2017, 4:05pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Arctic Water is Littered with Plastic Fragments
A collection of plastic fragments found in the Arctic Ocean. Credit: Andres Cozar

Some parts of Arctic Ocean are heavily polluted with plastic because of an Atlantic ocean current, says study

Plastic pollution that has been dumped into the world’s oceans is now entering the Arctic and causing it to lose its pristine state.

New study has found that some parts of the Arctic Ocean like east of Greenland and north of Scandinavia are accumulating high concentrations of plastics thanks to the powerful current from Atlantic Ocean.

Arctic has become a “dead end” for plastics floating in the North Atlantic. Its Greenland and Barents Seas now contain hundreds of tons of plastic debris composed of around 300 billion pieces, most of which are as tiny as grain.

In 2013, a team of researchers aboard the research vessel Tara sailed through the Arctic Ocean and were surprised to find abundance of plastics in many areas despite the fact that human population in the region is very low. When researchers followed the pathway of plastic through the North Atlantic Ocean using 17,000 satellite buoys, they were able to piece together how the plastic ended up there.

Plastic flows from the North Atlantic to the Arctic by the Gulf Stream, a huge ocean current that also carries warm waters from the Gulf of Mexico to Europe and US coasts. Once it makes its way into the Arctic Ocean, this current sinks and returns to the equator, but the plastic does not sink with it and builds up in Arctic waters.

"What is really worrisome is that we can track this plastic near Greenland and in the Barents Sea directly to the coasts of northwest Europe, the UK and the east coast of the US. It is our plastic that ends up there, so we have a responsibility to fix the problem.” Co-author Dr Erik van Sebille from Imperial College London said in a statement.

This plastic pollution is a big threat for marine life living in Arctic. Seabirds can eat them by mistake or become tangled in floating plastic. In any case, this plastic debris could prove harmful for the Arctic wildlife.

The Arctic is one of the most pristine ecosystems we still have. And at the same time it is probably the ecosystem most under threat from climate change and sea ice melt,” said van Sebille. “Any extra pressure on the animals in the Arctic, from plastic litter or other pollution, can be dangerous.”

Researchers suggest there should be a better way to deal with world’s plastic debris. Plastics should be stopped from going into the ocean. Because once it enters the ocean, it can reach anywhere and becomes nearly impossible to remove.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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