Nearly 300 million tons of plastic were produced in 2012, but where does this plastic end up? Waste deposition reports have been unable to entirely account for the final location of this plastic. A recent scientific study, published in Earth’s Future, fills this gap by identifying a surprisingly high density of micro-plastics frozen into arctic ice. The study predicts that current climate patterns and the melting of arctic ice will lead to the release of over a trillion pieces of plastic into the ocean within the next decade.
As arctic ice freezes, it concentrates surrounding particulates which then become trapped in the ice. Ice core data reports 28 to 234 micro-plastic particles per cubic meter of ice. This is three orders of magnitude larger than the particle concentrations in other highly contaminated waters, such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
This release of plastic is particularly alarming considering the high absorption capacity of plastics for toxic chemicals and pollutants which harm marine life and end up in our food system.
Supporting state-wide legislation (e.g. SB 270 the plastic bag bill, and AB 1699 against micro-beads) is one step that CAW is taking to combat this threat. Learn more.