Plastic Pollution Is Affecting Habitats and Climate in the Arctic

By Medscape Staff

April 11, 2022

Although the Arctic is normally considered remote and pristine, plastic pollution has found its way to its water, beaches, ice, and the seafloor and is affecting climate change, according to findings by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research.

What to know:

  • Between 19 and 23 million metric tons of plastic are transported by rivers, air, and shipping into the waters of the world and can be found throughout the Arctic in its water, remote beaches, rivers, ice and snow, as well as on the seafloor.

  • Virtually all marine organisms investigated, from plankton to sperm whales, come into contact with plastic debris and microplastic.

  • Trapped microplastic changes the characteristics of sea ice and snow, causing it to absorb more sunlight and therefore melt more rapidly, which could be contributing to why the Arctic is warming three times faster than the rest of the world.

  • The concentration of plastics found in the Arctic have reached a level similar to plastic pollution found in densely populated regions around the globe.

  • Plastics are responsible for 4.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions with global plastic production expected to double by 2045.

This is a summary of the article, "The global 'plastic flood' reaches the Arctic" published by Nature Reviews Earth & Environment on April 5, 2022. The full article can be found on

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