Though few people trek to Antarctica each year, the southern continent’s waters are already polluted with microplastics and hazardous chemicals. The disturbing revelation was made in early June by the environmental activist organization Greenpeace.

After reviewing water and snow samples from Antarctica, obtained during a recent expedition, the group found the presence of microplastics and persistent chemicals in the majority of samples tested. Considering there is little data for microplastics in Antarctic waters, this latest analysis provides valuable information concerning the presence of such contamination in the region.

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As Frida Bengtsson of Greenpeace said, most people imagine the Antarctic as a “remote and pristine wilderness.” But, due to mankind’s unsustainable habits and lack of regard for the environment, the remote habitat is now contaminated with microplastic waste and hazardous chemicals. We need action at source, to stop these pollutants ending up in the Antarctic in the first place, and we need an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary to give space for penguins, whales and the entire ecosystem to recover from the pressures they’re facing,” said Bentsson.

Microplastics and toxic chemicals weren’t the only offenders observed in the environment. The team also found waste from the fishing industry. “Buoys, nets and tarpaulins drifted in between icebergs, which was really sad to see,” Bengtsson continued. “We took them out of the water, but it really made clear to me how we need to put vast parts of this area off-limits to human activity if we’re going to protect the Antarctic’s incredible wildlife.” 

As a result of this finding, it is now a fact that plastic has been found in all corners of Earth’s oceans. It’s even been discovered in the deepest point of the ocean, the Mariana Trench. To protect marine life and the health of the oceans, pollution in all forms needs to be curbed.

The Truth About Plastic Pollution

It’s easy to grab an iced latte from your favorite coffee shop in the morning, then discard it without a second thought. But what’s not easy is comprehending how the simple action can adversely affect wildlife, the environment, and even present and future generations.

Believe it or not, approximately 80 percent of the plastic which is discarded on land makes its way to the oceans. Once the debris is floating at sea, it gets swept into giant converges of floating rubbish. The greatest is twice the size of Texas and is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Over time, the friction of the waves breaks down the plastic trash. Once the plastic wears down to about five millimeters (or about the size of a sesame seed), it is considered to be a “microplastic,” says the NOAA. This term encompasses the tiny particles of trash that are being ingested by wildlife, leaching hazardous chemicals into the environment, and traveling into remote recesses of the planet. 

Last year, researchers with the University of Hull and the British Antarctic Survey discovered levels of microplastics in Antarctica five times higher than expected. And at the other end of the world, German researchers found floating sea ice containing large amounts of plastic waste. If there was ever a time to take action, that time is now.

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What You Can Do

There is no denying that mankind’s unsustainable habits are negatively affecting the planet. Fortunately, each of us can take steps in our day-to-day lives to benefit not only our own families and communities, but the world as a whole, the environment, and future generations. Some of those steps follow:

1) Be Mindful of Your Consumer Habits

It’s fun to get a coffee before work or to take your restaurant left-overs in a to-go box. But if the container you’re departing with is made of polystyrene or plastic, reconsider purchasing from that establishment at all. As a consumer, you have the power to encourage businesses (large or small) to change. If enough people demand that Starbucks adopt compostable cups, the coffee giant would. 

2) Shopping Etiquette

Everybody has to eat. That means trips to the grocery store are inevitable. Before you leave the house, however, remember to grab your reusable grocery bags and Mason jars.

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When you shop in bulk, you’ll save money and have no use for plastic packaging. Furthermore, you can avoid using (then wasting) plastic produce bags if you bring your own cloth ones. Click here to learn more. 

3) Raise awareness

At times, it might feel like you don’t have a voice. And as an individual, this can be true! But when you work with others and, most importantly, stand up for similar causes, change will occur.

You can do this by joining a group that advocates for a cause you care about. You can also educate others in a kind fashion by posting more memes and content that relate to the environment, animal welfare, and holistic health.

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All in all, there is a myriad of ways you can do your part to better this planet. Take your first step by sharing this article and commenting your thoughts below!

Lead image source: Pixabay