The Chilling Truth About Plastic Pollution In Antarctica
By R. Kristene
When we picture Antarctica, we imagine clean, pristine, natural beauty. We envision blankets of ice, majestic frozen titans. We see snow-covered mountain tops and deep blue waters.
This southernmost continent is 99% covered in ice. It offers diversity with surreal blue glaciers. There are active volcanoes, rough waterways, ice caves, and 360° views of untouched snow.
Untouched by humanity.
Plastic Pollution in Antarctica Is Serious and Worse Than Expected
Antarctica, known for its clean and natural environment. This makes it the perfect location to measure the spread of global pollutants. Even in these isolated waters, you can’t escape the fact that plastic pollution is a real problem.
The chilling truth is that plastic is being found in all four corners of our world. And the effects are devastating.
Plastic Pollution Is Reaching the Ends of the Earth
Take a walk on the beach, anywhere, and you will see the evidence of plastic waste. It surrounds us, everywhere we look. All around the world, statistics are ever-growing and staggering at that.
It’s no surprise that plastic pollution has reached the most remote parts of our Earth. This includes Antarctica. This glistening, pure, remarkable land is now blemished. The prints of humanity have left their mark.
In this recent study, the findings were greater than assumed. The number of microplastics in the water was five times higher than thought.
We Need Urgency. But Why?
Because the well-being of Antarctica and its surrounding marine life depend on it.
Dr. Catherine Waller is an ecology expert and marine biologist. She said that research results show that urgent research needs to continue. She believes we need to look into quantities of microplastics. Not only in the Antarctic Ocean but also around the Antarctic continent.
Greenpeace International set out on a 3-month expedition. There they used snow samples and net dragging through the water to carry out their research. These samples confirmed the serious reality of microplastics in Antarctica’s environment.
Marine Pollution in Antarctica
When Greenpeace International set sail in 2018, there was evidence of plastic pollution. Immediately. The marine litter originating from ships and the fishing industry is a real problem. And for marine life, a deadly one at that.
What Are Scientists Finding in the Waters of Antarctica?
Materials found drifting between icebergs include:
- Fishing nets
- Fishing lines
- Strap bands
A lot of this debris and litter fall overboard from ships. It’s an increasing problem.
There is protection for waste disposal and management for Antarctica. The Antarctic Treaty. This area includes over 20 million square kilometers of the Southern Ocean. It stretches from the Antarctic coast to 60 degrees South latitude. Annex IV to the Environment Protocol is helpful. It forbids the discharge of oil, noxious liquid substances, and garbage in this area. Unfortunately, most lost material is off fishing boats. It isn’t always intentional, nonetheless, the effects are serious and long-lasting.
Litter From Research Centers and Basis – Solutions To Littering
Another contribution to plastic pollution in Antarctica comes from research centers and bases. When the researcher’s time is over, there is usually litter left behind. This litter is easily blown away by the extreme weather conditions. Then scatters into the snowy terrain and icy waters.
Plastics decompose very slow, and over a very long period of time (an average of 100-500 years). So the plastic waste isn’t going away, which means they’re hurting our oceans and marine life. In fact, the extreme temperatures are slowing this process of decomposition even more.
- Foamed plastic cups: 50 years
- Plastic beverage holder: 400 years
- Disposable diapers: 450 year
- Plastic bottle: 450
- Fishing line: 600 years
Birds and seals are getting tangled. Playful young ones find themselves wrapped in plastic, pulling and injuring themselves. Infections form, and what follows is a slow and painful death. It’s heartbreaking.
The Antarctic Circumpolar Current was historically thought to be impenetrable. But the results of recent studies have shown otherwise. They show that plastics originating outside the region are getting across the current.
The Greenpeace Vessel in 2018 found microplastics. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic from everyday items. They detected them in 9 out of 17 samples taken. And 7 of 9 samples of snow contained PFSs (polyfluorinated alkylated substances). These are incredibly harmful to wildlife and originate from industrial products.
Frida Bengtsson of Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic campaign talked about these results. She said that they show contamination, even in the most remote habitats of the Antarctic. Contaminated with microplastic waste and hazardous chemicals. She explained that even though we may think of the Antarctic as a remote and pristine wilderness. But one thing’s for sure, humanity’s footprint is clear. From pollution and climate change to industrial krill fishing. It has quite literally reached the ends of the earth.
This means that pollution is crossing the Southern Ocean.
Microplastics found in the Southern Ocean aren’t coming from Antarctica. They drift great distances on ocean currents. Then they accumulate in places that harm ocean wildlife.
Whether by ingestion or entanglement, plastic is devastatingly affecting marine life.
How Can We Stop Plastic Pollution in Antarctica?
It’s easy to feel like this problem is so far away, and there’s not much we can do to change what is already in motion. But that’s not true.
It’s actually the farthest thing from the truth.
Simple Actions, Big Results
Every action we take has a result. It has a negative or positive result.
Dont you see it? It’s a combination of two things that are affecting Antarctica. Plastic pollution from left behind debris, and from ocean currents. Debris is being brought into this region by the oceans.
This pollution is coming from us. We are contributing to this problem by allowing trash and plastic in our oceans. We quite literally have reached the unreachable. But in a negative way.
Which means we absolutely can reach this area in a positive way.
What’s the Solution?
There is hope for the future. Humans are powerful and capable.
These studies show us that we must support ongoing ocean plastics research. And monitoring as well. These efforts have to continue so we can fully understand the extent of the problem. This enables us to come up with solutions.
By supporting these efforts, we are educating ourselves and others. With this knowledge, we can truly understand what is happening in our world. Taking simple actions to do our part is crucial!
Take Action Now
Our actions have a profound impact. Together, we can build a healthier future. For the ocean, marine animals, and the ecosystem of Antarctica.
Little Actions, Intentional Impact
Here are some easy steps you can take to protect marine life, our oceans, and Antarctica’s ecosystem.
1. Reduce Plastic Usage. Grab a reusable water bottle and learn about the real danger of these single-use bottles. “How Water Bottles Came to Rule The World — And Why They May Destroy It”
2. Recycle at home, at work, and anywhere you go that you have the option to!
3. Refuse plastic straws and cups at restaurants.
4. Pick up trash when you see it, especially along the beaches, rivers, and oceans.
Let’s Spread Awareness as Far as the Oceans Can Reach.
It’s easy to share with your friends, family, and coworkers about the reality of plastic pollution.
Share this blog and help to spread awareness and educate others. You can also sign up for our OBP (Ocean Blue Project) email newsletter at the bottom of our homepage. Our newsletter provides you with transparency and accountability. It delivers the most up to date information straight to your inbox.
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We are on our way to a cleaner ocean, a cleaner world. A healthy life and environment. Ocean Blue dedicates itself to the purpose of protecting our environment. An environment where wildlife and human life not only coexist but thrive.
Author Bio: Rebecca Kristene is a Holistic Nutrition & Wellness Copywriter. She’s passionate about living a clean, natural, and unfiltered lifestyle. Motivating others to see the power in a life of simplicity.