- An estimated 14 million tonnes of microplastics are sat at the bottom of the ocean, according to new Australian research
- Scientists calculate as much as 50 times more plastic is on the ocean floor than at the surface
- Research follows September study estimating 19 to 23 million tonnes of plastic entered the ocean in 2016, nearly three times as much as previously thought
Over 14 million tonnes of microplastics have made their way to the ocean floor, according to new research from Australia’s state science agency, the CSIRO.
Analysis of sediments from a depth of 3 kilometres points to there being 34 to 57 times more plastic at the bottom of the ocean than at its surface – confirming theories that the majority of marine plastic pollution goes unseen.
Researchers from CSIRO analysed samples taken at six locations 300km off Australia’s south coast.
In every gram of sediment, they found an average of 1.26 pieces of microplastic – or plastics measuring less than 5mm in diameter.
From these figures, a total of 14.4 million tonnes of microplastic was calculated to be on the floors of the oceans globally.
“The Impact of Our Consumer Habits”
“This means [plastic] is throughout the water column,” Dr Denise Hardesty, one of the researchers at CSIRO, told The Guardian.
“This gives us pause for thought about the world we live in and the impact of our consumer habits on what’s considered a most pristine place.”
However, as Hardesty pointed out, while 14.4 million might seem like a large amount, it is not compared to the amounts of plastic entering the ocean every year.
A recent study estimated that between 19 million and 23 million tonnes of plastic entered the ocean in 2016 alone – almost three times as much as the previously accepted annual estimate.
“We need to make sure the big blue is not a big trash pit,” Hardesty added. “This is more evidence that we need to stop this at the source.”
Reducing Plastic Consumption
With new research highlighting the scale of the problem of plastic pollution, governments are beginning to act.
New laws restricting single-use plastics – including plastic straws, cotton buds, and disposable plastic cutlery – will come into force across the European Union in 2021.
Similar restrictions are expected in Canada too.
Photo by Naja Bertolt Jensen on Unsplash