The Arctic Ocean is a final resting place for plastic debris dumped into the North Atlantic Ocean, new research suggests.
A 2013 circumpolar expedition discovered hundreds of metric tons of plastic debris (some shown), from fishing lines to plastic films, ecologist Andrés Cózar of the University of Cádiz in Spain and colleagues report April 19 in Science Advances. While many areas remain relatively unpolluted, the density of plastic trash in the Arctic waters east of Greenland and north of Europe rivals plastic pileups in waters closer to the equator, despite few nearby human populations. Even more plastic may lurk on the seafloor, the researchers suspect.
Ocean currents probably brought the plastic from the North Atlantic Ocean. The debris most likely originated from the U.S. East Coast and Europe. Right now, the Arctic contains less than 3 percent of all global floating plastic, the researchers estimate, but that number could go up.