Earlier this month, it was reported that scientists recently stumbled across a new garbage patch floating in the remote, frozen regions of the Arctic Ocean. This garbage patch consists of microplastics that are embedded in Arctic ice cores and represents about three percent of the total plastic in our oceans.
It is estimated that between 100 and 1,200 tons of plastic is in the Arctic Ocean.
The vast majority of the debris was plastic fragments, including buoyant pieces of foam and manufactured items made from polyethylene and polypropylene. (The researchers estimated that 300 billion plastic items would weigh about 400 tons.)
The researchers also found fishing line and plastic microbeads, tiny granules that are added to toothpastes, facial scrubs and cosmetics. Microbeads are too small for the filters used in wastewater treatment plants, so when they’re washed down the drain they wind up in rivers, lakes and oceans, Cózar said.
The research team also found very few remains of plastic bags and wrappers. These types of plastic may be quicker to sink because their larger surface areas attract organism growth, which weighs the material down.
Over time, the sun causes plastic that’s floating on the ocean surface to degrade into tiny pieces called microplastics. The debris found in the Arctic was especially small, suggesting it traveled a long way to get there.