October 23 2020
14.4 million tonnes of microplastics resulting from the decomposition of large quantities of waste end up in the oceans each year, according to figures from the Australian National Research Agency published on Monday 5 October in the magazine Frontiers in Marine Science.
For this study - the first global assessment of the microplastics present in the seabed, the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) used an underwater robot that took samples from up to 3,000 meters deep, at various sites in southern Australia.
The researchers were able to establish that the quantity of these particles is actually 25 times higher than that estimated in previous studies! "It is more urgent than ever to find ways to clean up our damage before it reaches the ocean or to stop doing so from the start," the CSIRO warns on Twitter.
"Our research has shown that the deep ocean is a sink for microplastics," says Denise Hardesty, the principal investigator of this study. "We were amazed to observe high amounts of microplastic in such a remote location.
In addition, the study shows that in areas where there is more floating waste, there are generally more microplastics on the seabed.
"The plastic pollution that ends up in the ocean breaks down and decomposes into microplastics," explains Justine Barrett, who led the study. "The results show that microplastics do sink to the ocean floor.
Denise Hardesty calls for the implementation of quick solutions to counter plastic marine pollution, which affects ecosystems, wildlife and human health. "Government, industry and the public must work together to significantly reduce the amount of waste we see along our beaches and in our oceans," she said.
Pollution from microplastics is steadily increasing. These particles, less than 5 millimeters in size, come both from the decomposition of pieces of plastic present in the oceans as a result of currents and also directly from industrial waste.