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Arctic Ocean: An Alarming Report about the Amount of Trash

By Maya Weeks — last modified Sep 02, 2016 09:22 AM
This is a summary from Maya Weeks with the Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation reporting on the amount of trash collecting on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

Published: 2016-09-01 23:00:00
Topics: Environment

Today we cleaned up the beach at Sørvika in Murchisonfjorden in Nordaustlandet. A tide line covered in trash, much of the beach covered with too many microplastics to totally collect, and me so happy and sad and angry at the same time. The feeling of wanting to punch and cry at the same time while also knowing the extreme luxury of being in this place – this place where humans don’t live, this place that is a nature reserve, this place at the end of the Gulf Stream where so much trash from around the world accumulates.

Photo showing the high tide line at Sørvika, where kilos of microplastics and marine debris had accumulated.

During this one foggy morning we collected 41 kilos of marine debris in an hour. Then Ryo, Birgit, and I sorted all the trash and weighed it on deck: ropes from fishing and shipping, plastic packaging, shotgun shell cartridges, a toothbrush head, bottle caps, a toy dog’s foot, two pieces of artificial grass, shoes, paper goods, hygienic items, even plastic nurdles (plastic in its pre-production form). Since a lot of the debris was microplastics, sorting the six bags of trash meant that we were picking through piles of feathers and seaweed to remove the plastics, and then throwing the feathers and seaweed back into the sea.

Photo of bags of trash collected

Of course, cleanups are not nearly as useful as preventing plastic pollution at the source. No matter how many cleanups we do, if plastics continue to be used once and thrown away, soon we won’t even be able to clean up our beaches.

Learn more about our Global Microplastics Initiative and other Adventure Scientists projects on our website, the Field Notes blog, and by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Maya Weeks
Microplastics Adventure Scientist

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