A new study published in the journal Science Advances analyzes the amount of plastic garbage that litters the oceans. The researchers from the University of Cádiz in Spain found that ocean currents were responsible with the expansion of the garbage, and it might soon reach the waters of the untouched Arctic Ocean.
Ocean currents transport all the garbage disposed of in the waters and, thus, more seas end up littered. Such a major current took plastic pieces from the North Atlantic and brought them to the Barents and Greenland seas. If this keeps on going, the plastic waste threatens to litter the Arctic Ocean, which succeeded in remaining pristine until now.
Ocean currents take garbage everywhere
Every year, we produce around 275 million tons of plastic garbage. From all this, a worrying number of 8 million tons ends up in the oceans. The country responsible with most of this waste is China, which produces between 1.32 and 3.52 million tons of waste. Then, it is closely followed by other Asian countries, such as Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Vietnam, or the Philippines.
Plastic usually spreads on the entire surface of the planetary ocean, but the most prominent conglomerates of litter are spotted on the routes of the main ocean currents. Thus, the most affected are the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean.
Plastic degrades extremely hard
Between 1985 and 1988, researchers discovered one huge plastic garbage dump in the northern part of the Pacific Ocean. The area, also known as the Pacific thrash vortex or the Great Garbage Patch, is filled with microplastics. Starting with 2014, scientists found more such microplastics in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean, as well as in the Mediterranean Sea.
Such a huge extent of plastic pollution is worrying, since this material is made to degrade incredibly hard. For instance, there are tough plastic fibers which might take up to 600 years to naturally break down. Even a small bag made of thin plastic disappears in a few months.
Before degrading, these plastics have a huge impact on the environment. Many marine life forms get entangled in plastic, and they end up with severe wounds and being strangulated. Moreover, they might feed on this waste. The colorful plastic fibers look like food, and they are extremely toxic if consumed.
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