Trash Arctic

You May Not Have Been To The Arctic, But All Your Trash Has

It’s a sad state of affairs when our most pristine and pure landscapes end up with piles of takeaway containers sitting in the middle of them.

According to a team of German Researchers in the online journal Deep Sea Research, the Arctic is rapidly facing a pollution problem. Worldwide we already face rubbish problems in our marine reserves close to where we live. But scientist Mine K. Tekman who is part of the Alfred Wegener Institute is surprised at the amount of garbage washing up in the Arctic considering its remote location. From 2002 to 2014 there has been a growing amount of small plastics.

The team has been monitoring litter at two stations that are part of the AWI a deep-sea observatory network between Greenland and Svalbard.

Using a camera at a depth of 2,500 meters the team studied the ocean floor and found 89 pieces of litter in a total of 7,058 photographs. They then Extrapolated the data to 3,485 pieces of litter per square kilometre. By 2014 the number peaked to 6,333.


Ice itself may also help spread litter once it enters the ecosystem. “Sea ice may act as a transport vehicle for entrained litter, being released during periods of melting.”

This number has a strong correlation to ship activity in the area, understandably. The problem is only going to get worse as well. As Arctic sea ice recedes it is making it easier for shipping and tourism to make its way into the area.

“The receding sea ice coverage associated with global change has opened hitherto largely inaccessible environments to humans and the impacts of tourism, industrial activities including shipping and fisheries, all of which are potential sources of marine litter,” the report says.

“Whatever the causes,” The report concludes “the present study highlights once more that our current waste management frameworks are inadequate to tackle the problem of marine litter pollution and that we have to re-think our usage of plastic materials. Considering the importance of the Arctic region for global climate and ecosystem health, identifying the changes in anthropogenic stress and its direct or indirect sources provide information for future projections to regulate human activities.”

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