Kristine Lofgren

Melting Arctic Ice Could Release a Trillion Pieces of Plastic into the Sea

by , 05/29/14

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Melting Arctic ice is poised to unleash a torrent of more than 1 trillion pieces of plastic into the ocean over the next 10 years. According to a new report, there’s an immense amount of plastic trapped in remote ice areas – more than twice the amount in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. As the ice melts, that plastic will be released into the food chain, threatening marine life, clogging waterways and harming the ocean’s ecology.

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The report, published last week in the journal Earth’s Future, shows how scientists discovered an unexpected amount of trash trapped in ice cores extracted by research teams. Most of these plastics are made up of microplastics, which are the leftovers of plastic materials breaking down or are released by cosmetics containing microbeads. As ice forms, this micro plastic becomes trapped in the ice where it stays until the ice melts.

Related: Microplastic Beads from Face Scrub Clog US Waterways and Poison Fish

Scientists expect at least 2,000 trillion cubic meters of Arctic ice to melt in the next decade, releasing microplastics along with it. During their research, scientists found anywhere from 38-234 plastic pieces per cubic meter of ice. That means that in the worst case the trillion-piece estimate could be even be low. Even worse, plastics often act as bits of magnet, binding pollutants from the environment and becoming even more toxic when ingested by wildlife.

Via Al Jazeera

Lead image from Shutterstock, image from Takashi Hososhima

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3 Comments

  1. dydx June 28, 2014 at 10:29 am

    One thing:

    Both the IPCC AR5 WG1 report and penguins (like the ones stupidly shown in the slide show) relate to Antarctica. This article, however, is about the Arctic.

  2. jsv May 29, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Aren’t these melting glaciers ancient? How did modern day plastics get into them?

  3. Sherry Moore May 29, 2014 at 10:18 am

    Foolish media bias much? Why not read what was actually said by the IPCC

    “mazingly the UN IPCC AR5 report says this:

    “Taking all these considerations together, we have medium confidence in model projections of a future Antarctic SMB increase, implying a negative contribution to GMSL rise (see also Sections 13.4.4.1, 13.5.3 and 14.8.15).”

    That’s right – the IPCC says that its Surface Mass Balance (SBM) models for Antarctica show that its projected future climate behavior causes sea level to decline not increase!

    Furthermore it explains this finding by saying:

    “Projections of Antarctic SMB changes over the 21st century thus indicate a negative contribution to sea level because of the projected widespread increase in snowfall associated with warming air temperatures (Krinner et al., 2007; Uotila et al., 2007; Bracegirdle et al., 2008).” (13.4.4.1)
    Additionally the IPCC AR5 WGI report also shows that the huge Eastern Antarctica area which is the largest ice mass region with 90% of the continents total ice mass, is in fact gaining ice mass by noting the following:

    “The recent IMBIE analysis (Shepherd et al., 2012) shows that the West Antarctic ice sheet and the Antarctic Peninsula are losing mass at an increasing rate, but that East Antarctica gained an average of 21 ± 43 Gt yr–1 between 1992 and 2011. Zwally and Giovinetto (2011) also estimate a mass gain for East Antarctica (+16 Gt yr–1 between 1992 and 2001).” (4.4.2.3)

    The UN IPCC AR5 WGI report doesn’t support at all and in fact offers clear scientific evidence to the contrary which both refutes and embarrasses the alarmist sea level rise claims made by the major news media and their “star” anchors concerning their ludicrous reporting on the latest Antarctica ice loss studies.

    Thus we have the two new scientific studies themselves and the findings of the UN IPCC AR5 WGI report both of which completely debunk the alarmist baloney put on the air and in print by the “news” agencies regarding these most recent studies.

    The news media really “blew it” and provided an astounding demonstration of their monumental political bias and climate science incompetence in their reporting about this Antarctica related climate story. Shame on the author for promoting additional non scientific drivel in the name of destructive progressive agenda to ensure the have nots are further deprived and doomed to a future of food and energy poverty, and even death.

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