A new study led by scientists led by Peter Ross of the Ocean Conservation Association of Canada analyzed the spread of microplastics in the Arctic Ocean.
Scientists took samples of pollutants in near-surface seawater at 71 sites in the European and North American Arctic, including the North Pole. In addition, the researchers took samples at depths of up to 1015 meters in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska and Canada.
We already know that microplastics can be found almost anywhere on Earth, but we still don’t have a clear understanding of exactly how this pollution spreads. In this context, it is very important to understand where the tiny plastic particles come from into the oceans.
Peter Ross, Canadian Ocean Conservation Association WISE Specialist
The authors used Fourier transform infrared spectrometry to confirm the average number of microplastic particles in the Arctic is about 40 particles per cubic meter of ocean water. The vast majority of microplastics (92.3%) were fibers, of which 73.3% were polyester.
Since almost three times as many microplastic particles were found in the eastern part of the Arctic as in the west, the authors suggested that new polyester fibers could enter the region east across the Atlantic Ocean. Ocean Wise has tested washing machines and estimated that one thing can release millions of fibers during a typical household wash, and that waste treatment plants can produce over 20 billion microfibers annually.
Several million tons of plastic also end up directly in the oceans every year, where they disintegrate over time into microscopic pieces.