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Plastic pollution in Atlantic

Date: 20 August 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous


A new has estimated the amount of microplastic pollution in the Atlantic Ocean and put it at 11.6-21.1 million tonnes, indicating that the inputs and stocks of ocean plastics are much higher than determined previously.



It is well-known that pollution from plastic, especially smaller microplastics, have reached the oceans and even some of the most remote corners of the Arctic. 



  • That microplastic pollution in oceans is underestimated is also not a novel finding, but the new study is one of the few that have tried to put a number to the amount of microplastic pollution that is present in the oceans.

  • Microplastics are plastic debris smaller than 5mm in length, or about the size of a sesame seed. While they come from a variety of sources, one of them is when larger pieces of plastic degrade into smaller pieces, which are difficult to detect.

  • According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), at least 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year and makes up about 80 percent of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments.

  • The durability of plastic, which, on the one hand, makes the material suitable for widespread use from packaging to storing food is also a bane because it implies that plastic can take hundreds to thousands of years to decompose depending on the type of plastic and where it has been dumped.

  • In the oceans, plastic pollution impacts marine life, ocean health, coastal tourism, and even human health. Over the past few years, various news reports have shown that marine animals such as whales, seabirds, and turtles unknowingly ingest plastic and often suffocate.

  • For humans, too, marine plastic pollution is harmful if it reaches the food chain. For instance, microplastics have been found in tap water, beer, and even salt.

  • Consumption of plastic by humans is harmful since several chemicals that are used to produce plastics can be carcinogenic.

  • Smaller plastic particles are a hazard, the scientists note, as it is easier for them to sink to greater ocean depths and some marine species such as zooplanktons show preferential ingestion of smaller particles, making them easier to enter the food chain and their conversion to fast-sinking faecal pellets.

  • Pollution caused by microplastics has been “severely” underestimated in previous assessments and that a considerable amount of small microplastics are lost from the surface and are stored in ocean interiors.

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