High concentrations of plastic hidden beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean

Pabortsava, Katsiaryna; Lampitt, Richard. 2020 High concentrations of plastic hidden beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. Nature Communications, 11 (1), 4073.

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Concern over plastic pollution of the marine environment is severe. The mass-imbalance between the plastic litter supplied to and observed in the ocean currently suggests a missing sink. However, here we show that the ocean interior conceals high loads of small-sized plastic debris which can balance and even exceed the estimated plastic inputs into the ocean since 1950. The combined mass of just the three most-littered plastics (polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene) of 32–651 µm size-class suspended in the top 200 m of the Atlantic Ocean is 11.6–21.1 Million Tonnes. Considering that plastics of other sizes and polymer types will be found in the deeper ocean and in the sediments, our results indicate that both inputs and stocks of ocean plastics are much higher than determined previously. It is thus critical to assess these terms across all size categories and polymer groups to determine the fate and danger of plastic contamination.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 2041-1723
Date made live: 15 Sep 2020 14:09 +0 (UTC)

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