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Plastic is literally falling from the sky in the Arctic

Posted by
Lauren Geall
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Arctic

As if you needed another reason to make the change from single-use plastic. 

Bottles, coffee cups, bags and wrapping all have one thing in common: they’re all to blame for the overwhelming amount of plastic plaguing the world’s oceans.

While the UK Plastics Pact has set a target to make 100% of plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, we’re still in big trouble when it comes to dealing with the amount of plastic we’re producing – and throwing away – on a daily basis.

Now, a group of scientists have revealed that microplastics – defined as plastic particles below 5mm in size – are making their way to the most remote areas of the world.

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Plastic is literally falling out of the sky – even in the Arctic. That’s what a team of German-Swiss scientists found when they took snow samples from the Svalbard islands, a remote area in the Arctic.

The research, published in the journal Science Advances, investigated the levels of microplastics in three different locations across the world. And while the levels of microplastics they found in the Arctic were substantially lower than those they found in populated regions, they still discovered a shocking average of 1,760 microplastic particles per litre of snow. The samples they took from the other locations in the Swiss Alps and certain areas of Germany showed numbers over 20 times higher than those in the Arctic.

So what does this mean? Essentially, it shows the prevalence of microplastics in our atmosphere is a massive problem – bigger than the scientists conducting the study had even expected.

“We expected to find some contamination but to find this many microplastics was a real shock,” Dr Melanie Bergmann, the lead scientist behind the new research, told the BBC. “It’s readily apparent that the majority of the microplastic in the snow comes from the air.”

The team have now demanded urgent research into the potential health impacts these contamination levels could cause. This comes after a study in June found people eat at least 50,000 microplastic particles per year.

If you’re feeling rather dejected at this news, we don’t blame you, but every little change you can make contributes to the amount of plastic waste filtering into our oceans, atmosphere and bodies. 

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Not sure where to start? Why not pick yourself up a reusable water bottle and coffee cup, and make sure you take it with you every time you’re out and about. You can even buy yourself some reusable straws (go all out with these Dior ones), and take part in one of the numerous beach clean-ups which regularly take place across the UK.

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Lauren Geall

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