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.

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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