OSLO, April 19 (Reuters) – The Arctic is a dead end for floating plastic waste dumped in the Atlantic Ocean off Europe and the United States and swept north by ocean currents to a polar graveyard, scientists said on Wednesday.
Levels of plastic found east of Greenland and in the Barents Sea off Norway and Russia were far higher than expected for the sparsely populated regions, according to the report showing how man-made pollution extends even to remote parts of the globe.
“The northeastern Atlantic sector of the Arctic Ocean appeared as a dead end for the surface transport of plastic pollution,” the authors wrote in the open access journal Science Advances.
The survey, by the Tara Oceans circumpolar expedition that sampled 42 Arctic sites in 2013 with nets, found hundreds of thousands of mostly tiny bits of plastic per square kilometre (square mile) in the northeastern Atlantic region.
Much of the plastic was apparently old and had floated north from Europe and North America. Levels were comparable to those in ocean gyres, vast swirling currents nearer the equator, where plastic debris is known to accumulate, they wrote.