It seems we are hearing about plastic a lot these days. The environmental impact of disposable bags, the nearly 20 billion pounds of plastic entering our oceans each year, the rising amount of sea life whose lives are endangered from plastic – The list goes on and on.
But just how pervasive is this plastic problem? New research has found evidence of plastic pollution ranging from the deepest depths of the ocean all the way up to the remote Swiss mountains. Our plastic problem is, in all actuality, all around us.
Scientists have begun extensive research into plastics and their effect on the environment, and their research is becoming truly alarming. The most recent findings take us all the way down to the Mariana Trench, up through Point Nemo, the most remote point in the ocean, to the nature reserves of the Swiss mountains.
Over 10,000 m below sea level lies the Mariana Trench. Located just east of the Philippines, the Mariana Trench is the deepest section of the world’s oceans. A study published by the Global Oceanographic Data Center (GODAC) in Japan in April 2018 documented single-use plastic debris found in the trench as early as 1998.
The study also found that 92% of the plastic analyzed at depths greater than 6,000 m were made up of single-use plastics. Scientists claim to have found more chemical pollutants in parts of the Mariana Trench than some of China’s most polluted waterways, and as much as 17% of the debris was found with at least one organism – entangled, covered, or “attached”.
Another remote ocean area, Point Nemo, was discovered to have up to 27 microplastic particles per cubic meter. Point Nemo is nearly 1,700 miles from an inhabited island and deemed the “oceanic pole of inaccessibility”, yet plastics have seemed to find their way there.
And lastly, a study conducted by the Geographic Society of the University of Bern found that even in the most remote, unsettled mountain areas of Switzerland, whose recycling rate is nearly 100%, microplastics still pervade. Of the 29 floodplains studied, 90% of the soils contained microplastics, evidence of wind transport of plastic particles.
Evidence from this study has spurred even further research into microplastics, with increased concern with traces of plastic in soil, domestic livestock, and even agriculture.
It is becoming more and more apparent through studies such as these that action against plastic needs to happen immediately.
The extent of our plastic problem continues to expand and public concern is continuing to rise. There are many plastic alternatives out there to substitute for single-use plastics and regulation is continuing to expand, including the EU and the U.K.’s strategies to cut plastic pollution.
However, much and more needs to be done if we are to truly remedy the permeating and ubiquitous presence of plastic around the world.