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Study finds 'trillions' of pieces of plastic may be trapped in Arctic ice

Courtesy: Flickr/NASA Goddard

Courtesy: Flickr/NASA Goddard


Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Friday, May 23, 2014, 7:33 PM - Plastic is an integral part of modern society, but this "miracle material" has a downside.

It's estimated that 1 billion tons of plastic have been discarded since the 1950s  and research suggests it will take up to 500 years for some forms to biodegrade.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only 8% of the total plastic waste generated in 2010 in the U.S. actually made it to recycling plants.


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The other 92% was shuffled off to landfills or found its way into the water.

Now, a new study has found plastic debris in the unlikeliest of places.

Trillions of pieces of microplastics could be lurking in Arctic ice. As the ice melts, it stands flood the ecosystem with an unprecedented amount debris.

"Arctic sea ice from remote locations contains concentrations of microplastics at least two orders of magnitude greater than those that have been previously reported in highly contaminated surface waters," the study's author's write.

"Our findings indicate that  microplastics have accumulated far from population centers and that polar sea ice represents a major historic global sink of man-made particulates."

The research team believes that Arctic ice is trapping floating microplastics as it freezes. By citing current melting trends, the team estimates that 1 trillion pieces of plastic could be released in the next ten years.

The complete study can be found at Wiley Online Library.

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