Arctic Ocean or plastic ocean?

When you think of the icy Arctic Ocean, do you picture cold blue waters, on which float mysterious icebergs home to animals and fish not seen elsewhere on the planet? Think again, or rather add 300 billion pieces of plastic to your picture. That’s the amount of plastic scientists believe is floating around the Arctic Ocean. Most of the plastic is in the area to the east of Greenland and north of Scandinavia.

Where did it come from?

After all, the lands near the Arctic are not really full of people. It turns out that ocean currents are carrying plastic thrown into the ocean all the way to the Arctic. An ocean current is an unending movement of sea water from one point to another. It is caused by a several things including heat from the Sun, wind and rotation of the Earth (Earth’s spinning movement)

Many of these plastic pieces seem to have travelled for years before reaching the Arctic. This was worked out by scientists studying the plastic problem after they observed the condition of the pieces. While much plastic floats on top of the water, a lot also may be on the sea floor.

Plastic has been widely used for 60 years on Earth and our careless dumping of plastic things is slowly turning the once pristine (perfectly clean) Arctic into a junk yard. Unlike food waste and plant waste, plastic doesn’t break down so easily-as a result, it piles up and pollutes the environment. In fact the United States Environment Protection Agency reports that “every bit of plastic ever made still exists”.

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What’s the effect?

  • Seabirds, sea turtles and other ocean creatures could get hurt and die when they accidentally swallow plastic
  • Plastic waste affects fishing, affecting people who earn money through fishing
  • Plastics can release dangerous poisons into the water. These may be absorbed by fish, and when these fish are caught and eaten by people or bigger animals, they could get poisoned too!