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The oldest item found was a bottle fragment from Norway produced in the 1960s. The most recent piece was a shoe from Germany dating to 2012-2013.
On Tuesday, the German Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) published a study showing that plastic waste found in the Arctic originated from all around the world.
One-third of plastic waste that still bore imprints or labels allowing analysis of its origin came from Europe, according to the study, which was published in the journal Frontiers. Waste from Germany accounted for 8 percent.
"Our results highlight that even prosperous industrialized countries, which can afford better waste management, make significant contributions to the pollution of remote ecosystems like the Arctic," AWI expert Melanie Bergmann said.
In cooperation with Arctic tour operators, traveling tourists from Germany collected trash washed up on the shores of the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard. Between 2016 and 2021, around 23,000 items with a total weight of 1,620 kg were picked up.
Five percent of identified plastic trash in the Arctic originated from more distant places, such as the United States, China, Korea and Brazil. "Plastic debris is a global problem that even the uninhabited wilderness of the High North is not immune to," the AWI said in the statement.
https://t.co/ZJDWHmj8ZM Plastic production linked PETRO-chemical production & oil-fossil fuel industries. Use oil-gas for energy warming the earth, melting artic causing floods, fires, climate collapse. Human life depends on nature & labor's shaping of it for needs@JustStop_Oil
The oldest item found was a bottle fragment from Norway produced in the 1960s. The most recent piece was a shoe from Germany dating to 2012-2013. Most of the waste could be attributed to international fisheries.
"As for remote sources, plastic debris and microplastics are transported to the Arctic Ocean from the Atlantic, North Sea and North Pacific by various rivers and ocean currents," first author Anna Natalie Meyer said.
This study "makes an important contribution to filling knowledge gaps that exist with regard to the sources and distribution pathways of plastic waste globally and in the Arctic in particular," a spokesperson of the German Environment Agency (UBA) said, adding that "global efforts are needed to reduce the volume of waste in general."
According to estimates by the United Nations (UN), there could be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050. The UN is currently working to negotiate a globally binding agreement to control plastic pollution.
"Toxic chemicals and millions of tons of plastic waste are flooding into coastal ecosystems, killing or injuring fish, sea turtles, seabirds and marine mammals, making their way into the food chain and ultimately being consumed by us," UN Secretary Antonio Guterres said in a speech at the end of January.