Plastic waste that finds its way into the oceans often ends up floating on the water’s surface. It makes up huge isles of marine debris, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and it enables nature photographers to take pictures of the ocean water that nearly do not feature that water at all – because it is fully covered with a layer of trash. But plastic does not only accumulate on the oceans’ surface. According to the newest research, plastic pollution now reaches even the very deepest parts of the oceans – and it is found in the stomachs of deep-sea creatures living even seven miles under the surface.
This data concerning the pervasiveness of plastic waste in the oceans was released on behalf of Sky Ocean Rescue. The study was led by academics at Newcastle University and it found that animals from the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean were contaminated with fibers that most likely came from plastic bottles and packaging as well as synthetic clothing.
According to Dr, Alan Jamieson, leader of the study, the findings prove that there is no place on our planet free from plastic pollution anymore. “There is now no doubt that plastics pollution is so pervasive that nowhere – no matter how remote – is immune,” Jamieson told the Guardian. At the same time, he underlined the need for action heavily.
During the study, samples of crustaceans found in the deepest trenches across the Pacific Ocean – the Mariana, Japan, Izu-Bonin, Peru-Chile, New Hebrides, and Kermadec trenches were tested. The trenches range from four to more than six miles deep. They also include the deepest point in the ocean, Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench.
The researchers examined 90 individual animals – and found that ingestion of plastic ranged from 50 percent in the New Hebrides Trench to 100 percent at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
“The deep sea is not only the ultimate sink for any material that descends from the surface, but it is also inhabited by organisms well adapted to a low food environment and these will often eat just about anything,” Jamieson said and explained that deep-sea organisms are dependent on food “raining down from the surface which in turn brings any adverse components, such as plastic and pollutants with it.”
“Isolating plastic fibers from inside animals from nearly 11 kilometers deep [seven miles] just shows the extent of the problem. Also, the number of areas we found this in, and the thousands of kilometer distances involved shows it is not just an isolated case, this is global,” he said.
Every year, around 8.8 million tons of plastic waste gets dumped into the oceans. This waste does not cease to exist – it accumulates and goes on to affect the environment and the organisms living, as the study shows, in exactly every part and every layer of the oceans. “These observations are the deepest possible record of microplastic occurrence and ingestion, indicating it is highly likely there are no marine ecosystems left that are not impacted by anthropogenic debris.” Putting an end to the overflow of plastic waste in the oceans will require cooperation from governments and big businesses – but it also requires action from all of us as consumers. Our personal choices do make a difference and we can make it a difference for the better.
To learn how to help the planet by producing less plastic waste, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign!
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