Scientists have discovered 1.9 million pieces of microplastic per square metre of ocean floor.
Publishing their findings in Science, the researchers took samples from the bottom of the Tyrrhenian Sea in the Mediterranean, close to Italy’s west coast.
After studying the contents of samples, the scientists were able to identify different types of plastic – the highest concentrations uncovering almost two million microplastic particles in just one square metre.
The researchers say the findings answer the question of the “missing” 99% of plastic that ends up in the ocean.
“Until now we haven’t understood where the missing microplastics in the ocean end up and how they are transported,” Mike Clare of the National Oceanography Centre told Newsweek. “We know that there are concentrations of plastic on the ocean’s surface, but this accounts for less than one percent of the plastic that makes it into the ocean.”
“Until now, the rest has been assumed to settle slowly out, like rain or snow in the deep sea. We found instead that currents in the deep sea act like conveyor belts—moving plastic around, locally creating hotspots on the seafloor,” he added.
Clare says that in order to tackle this problem, people must look at the source. “Very little can be done to deal with these hotspots as they are—a deep seafloor clean up is not a viable option for a number of reasons,” he said.
“Therefore the solution needs to start at the source. We need to limit the pathways that get plastics to the ocean, switch to more sustainable materials where possible, and keep to the mantra of reduce, re-use, recycle.”