Plastic Pollution in the Atlantic Ocean


  • Recently, a new study published in Nature Communications has estimated the amount of microplastic pollution in the Atlantic Ocean and put it at 11.6-21.1 million tonnes, indicating that the inputs and stocks of ocean plastics are much higher than determined previously.

What are microplastics?

  • Microplastics are plastic debris smaller than 5mm in length, or about the size of a sesame seed. While they come from a variety of sources, one of them is when larger pieces of plastic degrade into smaller pieces, which are difficult to detect.

How does plastic reach the oceans?

  • There are multiple pathways. For instance, riverine and atmospheric transport from coastal and inland areas, illegal dumping activities and direct-at-sea littering from shipping, fishing and aquaculture activities, scientists have said.
  • According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), at least 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year and makes up about 80 per cent of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments.

So what does this mean?

  • In the study, scientists studied pollution of the Atlantic Ocean caused by three types of plastics: polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene, which were suspended in the top 200 metres of the ocean. These three types of plastic are most commonly used for packaging.

Source: Indian Express

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