LIMERICK — Plastic pollution in the Atlantic Ocean could be 10 times worse than previously thought, according to estimates by the UK-based National Oceanography Centre (NOC) published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.
Samples of Atlantic seawater taken at depths of up to 200 metres suggest the “supply of plastic to the ocean [to] have been substantially underestimated,” the NOC reported.
The NOC said the volume of invisible or near-invisible microplastics “is comparable in magnitude to estimates of all plastic waste that has entered the Atlantic Ocean over the past 65 years.”
The NOC’s Katsiaryna Pabortsava, the report’s lead author, said that earlier studies did not measure “the concentrations of ‘invisible’ microplastic particles beneath the ocean surface.”
Between five and 14 million tons of plastic rubbish end up in the world’s seas and oceans each year, according to different estimates published in recent years.
Some of this gets broken down over time into microplastics, which are classified as any piece of plastic up to five millimetres in length. Smaller pieces are sometimes labelled “nanoplastics.”
The tiny particles can enter food chains unnoticed. Research by Arizona State University published on Monday found traces of plastics in all 47 human organ or tissue samples tested.
Research by Plymouth Marine Laboratory published in May suggested that microplastic pollution in the Atlantic could be twice the volume of previous estimates. Researchers used fine-mesh nets to sample seawater off the coasts of southern England and Maine in the United States.Show