Apr 21, 2017 10:51 AM EDT
Trillions of pieces of plastic are littered in the world's oceans. It has made its way to the Arctic according to a new study that was published on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.
A team of researchers from the University of Cadiz in Spain along with other institutions have showed how the major ocean current is carrying bits of plastic. The study revealed the litter is mainly from the North Atlantic, to the Greenland and Barents seas.
Climate change has been known to shrink the Arctic sea ice cover and more human activity in has increased its risks. Researchers said plastic pollution has grown significantly since 1980 and will continue to spread more widely in the Artic in decades to come.
The New York Times reported Andrés Cózar Cabañas, lead author of the study and professor of biology at the University of Cádiz said the results really surprised them. They are worried about the possible outcomes as it is hard to fully understand the consequences the plastic might have in the oceans. What they know is the consequences will be felt at a greater scale.
About 8 million tons of plastic floats into the ocean every year and scientists have estimated as much as 110 million tons of plastic trash in the ocean. Researchers found that another model of ocean currents predicted that plastic garbage could accumulate in the Arctic Ocean. Specifically in the Barents Sea located off the northern coasts of Russia and Norway.
Spokesman reported scientists sampled floating plastic debris from 42 sites in the Arctic Ocean onboard research vessel, Tara, which completed the trip around North Pole from June to October 2013. They were able to scoop up plastic debris and determined the concentration of particles in the surveyed area.
Almost all of the plastic were in fragments ranging from 0.5 millimeters- 12.6 millimeters. The researchers did not find many large pieces of plastic suggesting that the plastic has already been in the ocean for a while by the time it gets to the Arctic. Cabañas said the issue of plastic pollution will require international agreements.
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