Litter at the Ends of the Earth

Because of the remoteness, and the current movements throughout the Arctic and Antarctic, researchers have long surmised that the plastic load at the poles were minimal, and that most of the ocean’s marine litter was concentrated in the five ocean gyres. But a few recent publications have blown these assumptions out of the water.

High plastic concentration has been identified in two areas of the Arctic Ocean. The researchers speculate that plastic particles may separate out as the sea water cools, becomes denser, and sinks. Though there is concern that with sea ice melting, increasing rates of transportation through the Arctic may lead to increasing litter, currently it seems that most of the litter in the North is being transported long distances.

Cozar et al (2017).

At the other end of the globe, researchers have found microplastic concentrations 5 orders of magnitude higher that predicted. Very little else is known about the quantities or concentrations of plastic in the area, but these findings have raised serious concerns about the marine impacts of microplastics in the polar south.

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Waller et al (2017)

Read about the Arctic research here

Read about the Antarctic research here

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