The depressing find, only 1,000 miles from the north pole, is the first made in an area that was previously inaccessible to scientists because of sea ice. It is one of the most northerly sightings of such detritus in the world’s oceans, which are increasingly polluted by plastics.
A team of scientists drawn from the UK, US, Norway and Hong Kong, headed by marine biologist Tim Gordon of Exeter University, said the discovery confirmed just how far plastic pollution has spread. It has prompted fears that plastic waste is flowing into the Arctic as the ice melts because of climate change. The thaw is simultaneously releasing plastic that has long been trapped in the ice.
The scientists, who were on the explorer Pen Hadow’s Arctic Missionattempt to sail to the north pole, were surprised to discover the blocks of polystyrene many hundreds of miles from land in areas that were, until recently, covered by ice all year round.
Photo: P J Hansen/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)