Microplastic sample collected in the Mediterannean Sea

« Plastics are ever prevalent and have been an indispensable part of our lives for the last 50 years. As a result, the production and over-consumption of this material has led to a significant increase in global plastic production and subsequent disposal over the last two decades.

However, due to poor waste management practices all around the world, a substantial amount of plastics, ranging from macro (>25mm) to nano (<100nm) sizes, ends up in marine ecosystems. In particular, microplastics are particles of between 1 to 5mm that originate mainly from primary sources such as textile fibres, cosmetic microbeads, and manufacturing residues, or secondary sources such as the breakdown of larger plastic pieces. These plastic particles occur in varying chemical composition, and have different properties, buoyancies and spectral wavelengths. The most commonly found microplastic polymers include polyethene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyvinylchloride (PVC), polystyrene (PS), and polyamide (PA) which all break down under the influence of UV radiation, sea salinity and abrasion due to, e.g. waves » said Claudia Windeck a spacial analysis specialist.

During our expedition, we will collect microplastic with a manta net for our Partner Oceaneye. Our macro waste data will be reported in our ArcGis map and to Ghost gear initiatives and the microplastic analysis will be available on the map from Oceaneye. Oceaneye has already analysed samples collected by many sailors and volunteers from all over the world. In the Arctic region, however, data are not so present so our input should be interesting.

Below you can have an overview of the microplastic pollution.

Oceaneye Map

Microplastic in the Arctic

When we think about the Arctic we think about pristine environment however a recent study made by the Researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) found fragments of packaging, paints, nylon, polyester and cellulose acetate which is commonly used in making cigarette filters in every sample they took in 2014 and 2015 .

As much as 12,000 pieces of microplastic particles were found per litre of sea ice in core samples taken from five regions on trips to the Arctic Ocean – as many as three times higher than levels in previous studies.

Puffin with a plastic rope in the beak

« Already 60% of seabird species have plastic in their guts, often as much as 8% of their body weight. And with ocean plastic increasing exponentially, that figure will rise to 99% by 2050, threatening some birds’ survival. Unless we act. »

Our 2 Objectives during this expedition:

  1. Complete the data collected by Oceaneye in remote areas like the Arctic.
  2. Collect sample close to wildlife to see if and how human pollution impacts them.

If you are interested to monitor microplastic and are sailing in some remote places don’t hesitate to contact Oceaneye.

Interesting article from the Guardian about micro plastics in the Arctic.

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