The Arctic could be a major trap for the plastic that’s polluting the world’s oceans.
Andrés Cózar at the University of Cadiz in Spain and his colleagues took samples of floating debris while circumnavigating the Arctic Ocean. Most of the ice-free ocean was free of plastic, but the researchers found high levels of the material in the northern and eastern areas of the Greenland and Barents seas. The team estimates that 100–1,200 tonnes of plastic floats in these regions. Much of it seemed old and to have come from afar, and surface-circulation models suggest that ocean currents carried the litter to these areas from the North Atlantic.
Although the Arctic plastic amounts to less than 3% of estimated global levels, the authors suggest that much of it will eventually settle in the depths or sink to the floor of the ocean.