Airborne Plastic Has Arrived at the Arctic

Marine ecologist Melanie Bergmann studied the effects of climate change on Arctic marine ecosystems a few years ago. Bergmann kept noticing how much plastic litter was appearing in samples and images of the nearby ocean floor. As she and her team ran several analyses, they found tiny pieces of plastic spreading throughout seafloor sediment and ocean waters. These pieces were frozen into layers of sea ice. This is surprising because the Arctic has a relatively little human presence. So this begs the question: how did all these plastic particles get here?

We now know that at least some of it is blowing to the Arctic through the atmosphere and drifting down to the surface. That is the conclusion of a new study of Arctic snow samples conducted by Bergmann, a senior scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, and her colleagues. The work, published Wednesday in Science Advances, also provides more evidence that motes of plastic are likely constantly circulating in the atmosphere, underscoring just how ubiquitous the plastic pollution problem is. It shows “the way [microplastic is] transported around the world, even to the most remote places on earth,” Bergmann says.

Head over at the Scientific American to know more about this topic.

(Image Credit: Mine Tekman/ Alfred Wegener Institute)

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