UCF Global Perspectives

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Microplastics Littering Arctic Waters

Zachary Good, Alexandra Cousteau Environment and Global Climate Change Fellow

April 21, 2017

Trillions of microplastics are littering the world’s oceans and are now finding themselves stuck in the Arctic (NYT). A recent study, published in Science Advances, shows a major ocean current is carrying these microplastics from the North Atlantic and leaving them in the Greenland and Barents seas (NYT). According to the study, only one-third of the 42 surveyed sites had plastic, but between 100 to 1200 tons were concentrated in the Greenland and Barents seas (Verge). Plastic threatens birds, fish and marine mammals as they “become entangled in it or eat it” causing them to “slowly starve” (Verge).

About eight million tons of plastic finds its way into the ocean every year, and scientists estimate up to “110 million tons of plastic trash in the ocean” currently (NYT). Current waste management systems are inadequate to tackle the problem of marine pollution both in the United States and among many European nations (IBT). The plastic fibers persist in the environment and do not break down like other materials do (IBT). The fish we consume are usually filled with many microplastics that they ingest when feeding.

 

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/19/climate/arctic-plastics-pollution.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fearth&action=click&contentCollection=earth&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront

http://www.theverge.com/2017/4/19/15358950/plastics-arctic-ocean-microplastics-polar-ice-caps-birds-animals

http://www.ibtimes.com.au/marine-animals-perish-due-microplastics-1548935


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