According to newly published research, micro plastics have been discovered in Antarctica for the first time, raising concerns about the pollutant’s effects on ecosystems, ice melting, and potential health risks. Alex Aves, a student at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury, collected snow samples from 19 locations on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica and was astounded to find micro plastics.
“It’s incredibly sad but finding micro plastics in fresh Antarctic snow highlights the extent of plastic pollution into even the most remote regions of the world,” she said. Alex Aves discovered an average of 29 micro plastic particles per liter (about one quart) of melted snow. Her study, was published in the science journal The Cryosphere discovered. Micro plastics have previously been found inside fish in the deepest ocean depths and within Arctic ice, infiltrating the planet’s most remote and otherwise pristine regions, but not in freshly fallen snow. Micro plastic density was nearly three times higher near the scientific bases on Ross Island, Scott Base, and McMurdo Station. The most common of the 13 types of plastic discovered was PET, which is commonly used to make soft drink bottles and clothing. Micro plastics may have traveled thousands of kilometers through the air, but the presence of humans in Antarctica is also likely to have left a micro plastic “footprint,” according to the study. The research confirmed what scientists expected, Institute of Environmental Science and Research senior scientist Olga Panto said. “It really is impossible for any organism to now avoid the impacts of human activity, similar to the way that all environments and organisms are impacted by human-driven climate change.” To avoid the effects of plastic pollution, reports emphasize the need for collaborative action. Panto believes that significant steps must be taken to reduce the use and management of plastics.
Global plastic waste
Plastic waste not only pollutes the oceans, but it also contributes to the climate crisis by emitting greenhouse gases as it degrades, and it endangers human health. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, global plastic waste is expected to triple by 2060 based on current annual global plastic production (OECD). According to the OECD, economic and population growth will drive this increase. The most significant increases are anticipated in emerging economies in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency, estimated 14 million tons of harmful micro plastics may be present at the bottom of the world’s deep oceans by 2020. According to the World Economic Forum, plastic accounts for 4 to 8% of annual global oil consumption, and it is expected to rise to 20% by 2050.