An expedition under British command discovered large pieces of plastic on floating ice in the middle of the Arctic Ocean.
This depressing find, about 1500 kilometers from the North Pole, is the first to occur in an area that was previously inaccessible due to the presence of ice. This is one of the first observations of this pollutant to occur at this point to the north, while the seas of the planet are always more polluted.
According to The Guardian , a team of researchers from Great Britain, the United States, Norway and Hong Kong, led by marine biologist Tim Gordon of Exeter University, claim that this discovery confirms the extent of pollution by plastics. This new information raises concerns that plastic is spreading in the Arctic as ice melts due to climate change. This cast iron would thus release plastic that had been stuck in the ice for a long time.
The researchers participating in an attempt to travel to the North Pole aboard a sailboat in the company of explorer Pen Hadow were surprised to discover polyurethane foam blocks in areas hundreds of kilometers from the mainland, regions that were constantly trapped in ice until recently. The scientists found two large pieces between the 77th and 80th degrees of north latitude, in the middle of the international waters of the center of the Arctic Ocean.
“I have been exploring the Arctic for 25 years, and I have never seen such large and visible waste,” says Mr. Hadow, the only individual to have traveled alone and without supplies, to the geographic North Pole. “The polyurethane blocks were simply on top of the ice. ”
“Finding waste as a worrying sign that the melting of the ice will allow more pollution to be found in these areas,” says Gordon. “It’s potentially very dangerous to the wilderness of the Arctic. ”
The expedition – which took place on two yachts – moved farther than ever before in the central Arctic Ocean without the use of icebreakers. Ice melt has increased sharply due to climate change, with 40% of the Arctic Ocean being navigable in the summer.
Estimates suggest that more than 5,000 billion pieces of plastic will float on the surface of the planet’s oceans. It is also argued that there is enough plastic to create a distinct permanent geological layer. Dr. Ceri Lewis, Scientific Advisor for the expedition, had previously warned that humanity produces 300 million tons of plastic annually, the equivalent of the weight of all human beings. About half of the plastic produced is used once, then discarded.
One of the main concerns is that large pieces of plastic can be divided into “microplastic” – small particles that are accidentally consumed by feeding animals using a filtration system. These particles remain in the bodies of animals and are transferred to the upper echelon of the food chain, threatening biodiversity at all levels, from zooplankton to large predators, such as polar bears. In an attempt to assess the presence of microplastics in Arctic waters, scientists want to test seawater samples collected in mesh nets separated by holes broad of less than one millimeter.
“Many of the rivers that are often a source of plastic pollution lead to the Arctic Ocean, but this pollution has literally been stuck in the ice,” says Lewis. “Now that the ice melts, we believe that microplastics are released in the Arctic. It is estimated that there is an accumulation of microplastics in the region due to the number of rivers flowing into the Arctic basin but we have very little data to support this in the more northerly areas of the Arctic. the Arctic Ocean. According to the researcher, the data collected by the expedition is important because the Arctic is the site of several fishing activities that could be affected by microplastics.