A new report reveals that Antarctica’s ocean floor and sea surface areas are littered with microplastics and other persistent chemicals. Researchers from Greenpeace analyzed samples of both the Antarctic sea floor and sea surface to confirm the alarming findings. The findings indicate that even the most remote habitats on the continent are contaminated with plastic waste.
Despite the remoteness of the Antarctic continent, researchers have found high levels of microplastics in its sea ice. These particles range in size from one micrometer to several centimeters, and they consist of at least 12 types of plastic per liter. Microplastics also show varying chemical and physical properties, including particle size and pH. Several sources of microplastics were identified, including waste materials from the human environment and the soil around the base.
In Antarctica, microplastics are likely from the continent itself. They have been found in the water near research stations and are most likely to have come from synthetic clothing and flags used on Antarctic expeditions. Microplastics have also been found in the garbage discarded in the area. The particles also probably made their way into the region via the atmosphere or sea spray.
The highest concentrations were found near the outfall of a station’s sewage treatment plant. Despite the low concentrations of these contaminants, they matched those observed in other parts of the world. And the microplastics detected had characteristics similar to those from washing clothes.
Scientists have researched to understand the effects of microplastics in the Antarctic Ocean. Their study found that microplastics can be found in all ocean layers, including the sea floor near the South Pole. In the Weddell Sea alone, microplastics can accumulate up to 1,900 pieces per liter. In the Southern Shetland Islands, there are 766 plastic particles per square meter.
Developing alternative marine paint to reduce microplastics
The study shows that nearly half of the microplastic particles collected were plastics from marine paint. This is particularly concerning because shipping traffic is a significant source of microplastic pollution in the Southern Ocean. Researchers were able to identify the pigments and fillers in the microplastic particles using X-ray fluorescence. These results highlight the need to develop an alternative marine paint to reduce microplastics in Antarctica.
In a new study, scientists from the University of Basel in Switzerland studied the plastic composition of seawater samples. They found that 47 percent of the microplastic particles were made from plastics used in marine paint. These particles are likely to be a significant source of microplastics in the Southern Ocean, a primary concern for marine life. These plastic particles are made from polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyamides used in packaging and fishing nets.