Plastic Infiltrating Arctic Sea Ice: Researchers Uncover Record Microplastic

Plastic pollution isn't just a problem on your local beaches anymore, it's traveling to all corners of the world.

Experts at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have recently found higher amounts of microplastic in Arctic sea ice than ever before. However, the majority of particles were microscopically small. Ice samples from five regions throughout the Arctic Ocean contained up to 12,000 microplastic particles per litre of sea ice. Further, the types of plastic showed a unique footprint in the ice, allowing the researchers to trace them back to possible sources. This involves the massive garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean; the high percentage of paint and nylon particles pointed to intensified shipping and fishing activities in some parts of the Arctic Ocean. The new study has just been released in the journal Nature Communications.

“During our work, we realised that more than half of the microplastic particles trapped in the ice were less than a twentieth of a millimetre wide, which means they could easily be ingested by Arctic microorganisms like ciliates, but also by copepods,” says AWI biologist and first author Dr. Ilka Peeken.

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