New review: Plastics permeate the Arctic

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Mary Lou Van Deventer

May 13, 2022, 4:31:57 PMMay 13
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Plastics resisters, refresh your coffee or uncaffeinated herbal tea and find a quiet corner so you can sink deep into “Plastic Pollution in the Arctic,” a well-written literature review with 198 footnotes in the May/June "Nature Reviews: Earth & Environment.”  The text confirms the grim details you were rightfully afraid of, and the maps of ocean currents are outstanding.  Look for the Beaufort Gyre.  You can download a free PDF.  

It reminds me of working for Friends of the Earth in the 1970s, when our esteemed colleague next to me created a plaque identifyiing his spot as the Armageddon Desk.  

Aunty Entropy  
There is no Planet B 

IMO: Extended Producer Responsibility can’t work for plastics because nobody can possibly take enough responsibility to justify continued production.  Only bans stimulate product substitution.  


Plastic pollution is now pervasive in the Arctic, even in areas with no apparent human activity, such as the deep seafloor. In this Review, we describe the sources and impacts of Arctic plastic pollution, including plastic debris and microplastics, which have infiltrated terrestrial and aquatic systems, the cryosphere and the atmosphere. Although some pollution is from local sources — fisheries, landfills, wastewater and offshore industrial activity — distant regions are a substantial source, as plastic is carried from lower latitudes to the Arctic by ocean currents, atmospheric transport and rivers. Once in the Arctic, plastic pollution accumulates in certain areas and affects local ecosystems. Population-level information is sparse, but interactions such as entanglements and ingestion of marine debris have been recorded for mammals, seabirds, fish and invertebrates. Early evidence also suggests interactions between climate change and plastic pollution. Even if plastic emissions are halted today, fragmentation of legacy plastic will lead to an increasing microplastic burden in Arctic ecosystems, which are already under pressure from anthropogenic warming. Mitigation is urgently needed at both regional and international levels to decrease plastic production and utilization, achieve circularity and optimize solid waste management and wastewater treatment. 

AUTHORS:  Bergmann, M., Collard, F., Fabres, J. et al. Plastic pollution in the Arctic.Nat Rev Earth Environ 3, 323–337 (2022). 


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