Atlantic plastic levels “massively underestimated”
August 19, 2020 - There is at least 10 times more plastic in the Atlantic Ocean than previously thought, according to a study led by the UK’s National Oceanography Centre.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, found 12-21 million tonnes of tiny plastic fragments in the upper 200 metres of the Atlantic Ocean.
This figure is similar to the previous 17 million tonne estimate for the total amount of plastic waste that has entered the Atlantic since 1950.
However, the new study looked at only the three most common types of plastic litter – polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS) – in a limited size range, suggesting that the supply of plastic to the ocean has been substantially underestimated.
If the concentration of these most common plastics measured to a depth of 200m is representative of the rest of the Atlantic, then the ocean would contain about 200 million tonnes of plastic, or at least another 178 million tonnes compared to previous estimates.