A never ending stream of plastics
Although lying at the outer edge of Europe, the Arctic is not isolated and certainly not unaffected by human influence. Through ocean currents, plastic litter is transported to the Arctic every day. And it stays there, often locked in the ice. In a way, one could say that the Arctic is the drainage hole for plastics coming from Europe and North America.
A threat to wildlife and local communities
This continuous stream of plastics coming info the Arctic not only poses a threat to wildlife but also local communities and tourists who are unwittingly exposed to this waste. Animals of all sizes, from zooplankton to polar bears can be affected by ingesting plastics or getting entangled in ropes and nets. These same items also pose a safety risk to cruise ships because they can get caught in propellers.
Prevention is the solution
What can be done to solve this problem? Cleaning up beaches or collecting floating plastic from the Arctic sea could be an option but also an immense task, given that millions of tons of plastic items are stuck in the ice, on unreachable beaches or on the seafloor. A more effective approach is to reduce the amount of plastic litter coming into the Arctic by working on prevention. This is the approach appleid in the Arctic Marine Litter Project.
The Arctic Marine Litter Project
The Arctic Marine Litter project is designed to work as a catalyst for change by directly engaging stakeholders in the identification of sources and solutions and by providing input for ongoing initiatives on marine litter in the Arctic. The project is divided into four stages:
- Identifying the most common litter items in the European Arctic
- Identifying key stakeholders, underlying behaviour and processes that have resulted in the main litter items ending up in the Arctic
- Engaging these stakeholders in defining practical solutions and management actions to prevent litter from ending up in the Arctic
- Identifying what additional information should be collected through beach litter monitoring programmes in order to be able to evaluate the impact of actions taken
We need you to tackle this problem
As the problem of plastics in the Arctic is multi-faceted and international, there is no single solution. Therefore, working on solutions means working on a variety of issues, with a variety of stakeholders and scientific disciplines.
Together with partners throughout the region, Wageningen University & Research provides the expertise needed to work on solutions to prevent the Arctic from becoming a plastic soup and to preserve this magnificent landscape for future generations.