Atlantic plastic levels are higher than thought: study

Atlantic plastic levels are higher than thought: study

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Paris: More plastic can float today just below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, compared to the estimated total weight of plastic waste in 1950, new research showed on Tuesday.
The findings, based on the analysis of the three most common plastic materials and computer modeling samples, reveal an unseen scale of pollution of the world’s second largest ocean.
Earth’s oceans contain an estimated 150 million tons of plastic, often in the form of microplastic particles.
These small fragments have been found in every ocean on the planet and even at the bottom of the deepest trench in the world.
Despite its ubiquity, ocean plastic is difficult to measure accurately.
To measure this, researchers at Britain’s National Oceanography Center analyzed plastics collected in samples from 12 sites that span 10,000 kilometers of the Atlantic Ocean.
They then assessed the abundance of the three most common oceanic plastics: polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene at depths of 10 and 100 m below the surface.
Based on trends in the generation of plastics by 1950, researchers estimated that the Atlantic now contained 17 to 47 million tons of plastic.
This upper figure exceeds all estimated plastic inputs in the Atlantic since the middle of the last century.
“Reaching the remote open sea is generally challenging and requires well-funded research programs,” lead author Katsaryana Pabortswa told AFP.
“Similarly, continuous monitoring in the open ocean is a logical and technical challenge in plastics.”
The research found that the upper 200 meters of the Atlantic – the majority of ocean life – is microplastic at up to 20 million tons.
Pabortswa said that his study, published in Nature Communications, highlighted the need to better evaluate ocean plastic levels with “considerable urgency”.
It is believed that about eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year, causing yet unknown damage to seafood chains that hundreds of millions of people are directly dependent on food and income.
Pubortswa said that even though plastics can be recycled, waste management strategies have failed to stem the flow reaching the ocean.
“The sources of plastic are many and go beyond the litter,” she said.
“For example, a lot of plastic can come from household activities (like synthetic laundry), or car tire corrosion and surface paint.
He said that coastal erosion from garbage piles can be an important source of plastic flowing into the sea.

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