Plastic Particles More Prevalent Than Previously Thought


For decades, oceanographers have collected water samples from the surface of the ocean in order to record how much plastic debris currently litters the waters.

But according to a new study published in April’s edition of Geophysical Research Letters, those years of data may be terribly off base due to miscalculation. The study asserts that surface collection alone is insufficient because high winds have a tremendous impact on the buoyancy of the plastic debris.

In a voyage in 2010 in the North Atlantic, the research team began collecting samples at the surface as well as additional depths as far as 100 feet. At each interval, plastic particles were present. According to new numbers, earlier plastic content tests could be underestimated by anywhere from 2.5 to 27 times.

“We’re just tapping the potential of this new research but there is definitely a lot more plastic particle pollution out there than we thought and we need to study this more,” said co-author of the paper Dylan Meyer, a 2012 graduate from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The plastic particles create a myriad of potential problems to the ocean’s ecosystem. Stunting the growth of marine fauna by attaching itself to seaweeds, being ingested by fish and being passed up the food chain can lead to failure of internal organs or decreased growth. On a smaller level, the particles also become a great mode of transportation for microbes to travel from one area to another and invading nonnative areas.

“Ocean plastics haven’t been well studied. It is a pollutant that no one has taken the time and effort into quantifying how much plastic is in the ocean or studied its effects on the ecosystems,” Meyer said. “There are definitely environmental impacts that can be seen that are only going to be worsened.”

Download Center

  • Monitoring and Reporting on Air Emissions for Regulators and the Real World

    When it comes to managing compliance and regulatory issues surrounding air emissions, there are no easy jobs. With interviews from practitioners from American Electric Power, Red Cedar Gathering, Trinity Consultants, and Cority, this eBook provides practical advice to advance your air emissions monitoring and reporting programs.

  • What Every EHS Professional Should Know About ESG

    Join experts from Arcadis and Cority on April 27th to learn the most common ESG reporting frameworks and how technology can help you improve reporting efficiency, identify areas for improvement, and create defensible audit trails.

  • Green Quadrant EHS Software 2021

    Read the new report by independent analyst firm, Verdantix, to get an unbiased comparison of the 22 most prominent EHS software vendors in the industry.

  • RFP Template for Waste Management Software

    Learn the essential questions to ask when evaluating waste management software solutions with this free, ready-to-use RFP template

  • 5 Keys to Best-in-Class Chemical Management

    Running a safe chemical program is challenging and complex: from knowing what's on-site to proper handling and disposal - all while navigating regulatory changes. Learn the best ways to mitigate chemical risk, get the most value out of your data, and gain buy-in for a chemical management solution.

Featured Webinar