We Have More Plastic On The Bottom Of Ocean Floor Than The Surface

We Have More Plastic On The Bottom Of Ocean Floor Than The Surface

We all are now facing one huge problem that will last for at least two generations in the future. The problem is called plastic. Yes, the very plastic we know like from single-use bag we get from convenience stores to wrap our grocery.

Single-use plastic might seem simple, but it is one of the worst thing humankinds ever created. It cannot be decomposed naturally and will only break down into microscopic pieces of plastic called microplastic. And those little pieces of plastic are literally everywhere today.

Microplastics exist not only on land where we can see plastic waste pilling up in the landfill. This kind of pollution also exist in the ocean. And more surprisingly, not only on the surface of the ocean, but also down in the deep.

Just a matter of fact, researchers finally calculated how much microplastic we have deposited at the bottom of the ocean, and the number is very disturbing. Here in this article let’s talk about the findings of the study.

Plastic In Micro Size

microplastics found in sediments. Work by Martin Wagner et al Wikimedia commons

Microplastic is the consequence we have to face from consuming any kind plastic since the invention of this little evil. Every single kind of plastic, either it is from plastic bag or parts of airplane, will not decompose naturally.

Just like mentioned above, plastics can only break down into smaller and smaller pieces, which is called as microplastic. The size of microplastic particles are usually less than 5 millimeters. With such small size, it can enter any marine creature’s body easily through absorption.

Any kind of plastic ever produced still exist nowadays, either it is still in its original shape or already broken down as microplastic. Thus, the accumulation of microplastic on this planet never comes down. Instead, it keeps adding up with more and more plastic consumed.

Knowing such fact might disturb you, and researchers at Australia’s national science agency conducted a study to measure how much plastic can we actually find at the bottom of the ocean. The result found by researchers of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is shocking.

Surprisingly, ocean floor is like a landfill of this planet. More accurately, ocean floor might even have more plastic than landfill. The researchers found that around 15 million tons of plastic stay at the bottom of the ocean and the number is keep on increasing.

By The Number

March_27,_2013_-_Small_crab_stuck_in_‘ghost_nets’_on_Puget_Sound_seafloor_(Wikimedia Commons)

The researchers from CSIRO conducted the study of deep ocean around 380 kilometers from South Australia coast. It was just a study to discover whether ocean floor is already polluted by microplastic or any kinds of plastic waste.

What they found was more than just the existence of tiny plastic particle or microplastic. “Plastic pollution that ends up in the ocean deteriorates and breaks down, ending up as microplastics,” said Justine Barrett, the lead researcher of this study.

They actually found that seafloor has so many plastic particles, around more than double of the amount of plastic on the surface of the ocean. In addition to that, millions of tons of plastic is still coming to the ocean every year.

“Our research found that the deep ocean is a sink for microplastics,” said Denise Hardesty, co-author of the study. This was the deposit of plastic waste we contributed to the ocean since the beginning of plastic era.

This finding also concluded the assumptions of where did all the plastic that were missing from our earth went into. “Even the deep ocean is susceptible to the plastic pollution problem. The results show microplastics are indeed sinking to the ocean floor,” Barret said.

The Ocean Floor Exploration

Diving Robot Submarine Diving Underwater Ocean Floor

The discovery of earth’s missing plastic has given us a new revelation about the danger of the plastic. “The marine science community has been really obsessed with finding out where the plastic is,” Dr Julia Reisser from University of Western Australia’s Oceans Institute said.

Even though Reisser was not involved in the study, but she has long predicted that the only possibility is ocean floor. “I think the ultimate fate (of marine plastics) is the deep sea, but we are far from being at equilibrium,” she stated as quoted from The Guardian.

To conduct this study, the researchers utilized an ocean floor explorer robot. The robot went into deep sea ass deep as 3 kilometers to collect the samples. Based on samples collected, the researchers then estimated the volume of microplastics in ocean floor worldwide.

“By identifying where and how much microplastic there is, we get a better picture of the extent of the problem. This will help to inform waste management strategies and create behavioral change and opportunities to stop plastic and other rubbish entering our environment,” Hardesty said.

Immediate action is a must to prevent further plastic pollution. Not only because it will disturb the ecosystem, but also because such kind of problem will last for generations. “Government, industry and the community need to work together to significantly reduce the amount of litter we see along our beaches and in our oceans,” Hardesty stated.

Similar Findings On Ocean Floor

areas of high concentrations of microplastics. Picture by Strebe (2011) Wikimedia Commons
Areas of High Concentrations of Microplastics

Another study conducted by a group of researchers of an international research project earlier found almost similar thing. But instead of discovering how much amount of plastic is actually ending up in the ocean floor, the researchers found how thick the layer was.

It was a group of researchers from The University of Manchester (UK), National Oceanography Centre (UK), University of Bremen (Germany), IFREMER (France) and Durham University (UK). A thin layer consisting of 1.9 million pieces of microplastic in certain areas of ocean floor.

“Almost everybody has heard of the infamous ocean ‘garbage patches’ of floating plastic, but we were shocked at the high concentrations of microplastics we found in the deep-seafloor,” Dr. Ian Kane of the University of Manchester, said.

“We discovered that microplastics are not uniformly distributed across the study area; instead they are distributed by powerful seafloor currents which concentrate them in certain areas,” Dr Kane, who is also the lead author of the study, explained.

From the study, it was found that ocean belt can act as a conveyor belt for microplastic. Tiny plastic particles are being distributed all around the world with the help of ocean floor current. Finally, the currents will bring plastics to certain areas that the researchers called as ‘hotspot’.






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