'Hotspot' of Plastic Trash Found in the Arctic

Scientists fear effects on animals already under threat
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 20, 2017 6:48 PM CDT
'Hotspot' of Plastic Trash Found in the Arctic
Fragments of plastic collected in Arctic waters.   (Andres Cozar)

In a further sign that plastic is not-so-slowly taking over our oceans, scientists say they've found a "hotspot" of plastic pollution from bags, bottles, and toys in Arctic waters. And the amount of plastic amassing on the ocean surface, in sea ice, and possibly even on the ocean floor is only expected to increase as melting ice enables travel to the area, researchers write in a study published in Science Advances, per the New York Times. The consequences of the pollution are not yet fully understood, but "the problem with plastic specifically being in the Arctic is that it's going to get into the food chain of animals that are very much under threat already, that are struggling to survive in a changing climate," study author Erik van Sebille tells the Verge.

The plastic was found during research missions to 42 sites around the North Pole in 2013. No plastic was found at a third of the sites, but there was a "hotspot of very, very polluted waters" in the Greenland and Barents seas north of Norway, where sites had between 100 tons and 1,200 tons of plastic, van Sebille says. The whole area only contains about 3% of the estimated 110 million tons of plastic in our oceans, but that figure is still high considering the area's remoteness. According to a release, researchers believe the plastic traveled to the Arctic on currents from the North Atlantic and originated in the UK, Europe, and North America. That means solving the problem "will require international agreements," a researcher says. (Or maybe some bacteria.)

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