The Arctic Ocean has become the repository for roughly 300 billion pieces of floating plastic, clogging the planet's northernmost sea, new research shows.
In a paper published in Science Advances, researchers noted the Arctic Ocean is hemmed in by Asia, Europe, and North America, and has very few watery entrances in and out – a location that's now harming it.
Researchers said the 300 billion floating plastic bits – many too small to see with an unaided eye – have been carried there over decades.
"Our data demonstrate that the marine plastic pollution has reached a global scale after only a few decades using plastic materials," Andrés Cózar Cabañas, a biologist at the University of Cádiz, told The Atlantic.
He called the data "clear evidence of the human capacity to change our planet. This plastic accumulation is likely to grow further."
In the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, plastic tends to accumulate in subtropical "trash patches," The Atlantic reported; in the Arctic Ocean, however, the plastic has spread itself throughout the whole ocean.
According to Cabañas, the only way to fix the problem is to mitigate its scale, and countries and coastal communities should work harder to keep plastic from winding up in the ocean, The Atlantic reported.
"We should properly manage the plastic waste at its source," the researcher told The Atlantic. "Once the plastic enters the ocean, its destination and impacts are uncontrollable."
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