Billions Of Plastic Pieces Floating In Arctic Ocean: What Happens To Garbage Humans Junk Into The Sea?
Apparently, even the Arctic Ocean is not safe from the unsightly bits of plastic, bottles, and other garbage defacing most of our oceans today.
This is what an emerging study published in Science Advances has revealed.
From The North Atlantic To The Arctic
A team of researchers from the University of Cádiz in Spain and a number of other organizations have made the sad discovery that a major ocean current is bringing countless plastic bits all the way from the North Atlantic, to the Greenland and Barents seas.
Experts predict that plastic pollution could rapidly find its way into the pristine Arctic waters in the years to come.
8 Million Tons Of Plastic Pollution In The Ocean
At least 275 million tons of plastic waste are produced every year by 192 nations across the globe - almost 8 million tons of this plastic pollution is washed up straight into the ocean.
China has been notoriously identified as the biggest contributor of plastic waste at 1.32 to 3.52 million tons, with its neighboring countries Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam following closely behind.
Where Do Plastics End Up In The Ocean?
Plastic pollution is pervasive in the open ocean, but the largest concentrations can be spotted in the five major ocean gyres, or circulating ocean currents, such as in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.
The Great Garbage Patch in the North Pacific, also known as the Pacific trash vortex, is one example of this. This dense part of the sea filled with marine debris or microplastics was discovered between 1985 and 1988.
In 2014, scientists have also found proof of microplastics in deep-sea sediments from the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian Ocean.
Plastic Could Really Last Forever
Unfortunately, plastics are really built to last forever. They're made from strong, durable materials that are difficult to break down naturally.
There are certain types of plastics - say, a dense monofilament fishing line - that could stay up to 600 years. A thin plastic bag in harsh surf zones, on the other hand, only stand a few months.
"But even if that bag breaks down over the course of six months or a year, it might well have had a lot of environmental impact before that," Chris Wilcox of CSIRO's Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship said.
Research shows that many marine animals get caught in plastic fishing lines and end up getting strangulated. There's also the risk of animals mistaking colorful plastic as food, which is severely toxic to them.