300 Billion Pieces of Trash: Garbage 'Hotspot' Found in the Arctic Ocean, Plastic Pollution More Grave Than Ever
The once-pristine Arctic Ocean is now clogged with billions of plastic debris.
A new study, published in the journal Science Advances, revealed that high concentrations of plastic debris, roughly around 300 billion pieces, have been found in the Arctic dead ends -- the northernmost and easternmost areas of the Greenland and Barents seas.
The plastic debris now have no way out but to be deposited in the succeeding part of the Arctic, which the researchers labeled as the North Atlantic accumulation region. In other words, the Atlantic Ocean, its surface, sea ice and even its floor, is becoming a depository for those trash.
The Verge noted that the Arctic garbage patch covers only a small portion of the ocean. As a matter of fact, it's only about three percent of the total plastic in our oceans. However, the researchers assert that the detection of these toxic substances in the Arctic Ocean is alarming, and it just goes to show how human activities can ultimately alter the environment.
"We did not expect to find high concentrations of plastic there, so far from the populated regions and the large sources of plastic pollution," said Andrés Cózar from the University of Cadiz in Spain and lead author of the study.
The plastic debris, which the researchers found, range from 0.5 millimeters to 12.6 millimeters, suggesting that the plastic have been in the waters for a while before reaching the area.
Using satellite-tracked buoys, the researchers found out that the plastic in the Arctic garbage patch probably came from Europe and the east coast of North America. As per the study, the plastics are possibly being carried via current that delivers warm water to the Arctic. However, it did not properly discuss how it entered the Arctic.
IFL Science cited that it might be because of climate change. As the sea ice cover melts due to rising temperatures, physical barriers that block the plastics are decreasing, giving these materials a higher chance of penetrating the area.
Plastic takes about 500 years to completely degrade. They contain toxic substances that may harm wildlife.
Ocean Crusaders, an environmental organization cited that every year, 100,000 marine creatures and approximately 1 million sea birds die from plastic.