Did it sink to the bottom of the sea, melt, or was it lying on deserted shores? Billions of kilograms of plastic end up in the sea every year and we’ve lost most of it. “No island has plastic,” says Utrecht University professor of oceanography and climatologist Eric van Siebel.
The plastic in the ocean is often described as “plastic soup,” but according to the researcher, it’s more like broth. “Plastic fragments and breaks into smaller pieces. These become microplastics or even nanoplastics and these particles are sometimes thinner than a hair.”
It is precisely these small plastic particles that are dangerous. “There are a few animals that can swallow a plastic cola bottle, but there are many animals that eat small bits of plastic. This means they go deeper into the food chain.” Plastic is everywhere, even in the deep sea, but we don’t know how this plastic behaves in the ocean.
By combining different studies, he’s mapping where this plastic stays. With models borrowed from astrophysics (which are used there to predict the processes that occur in stars and galaxies) and ocean current predictions, he tries to predict where the plastic is.
“Just as you can calculate how air from Tata Steel is polluted with wind, so we can calculate how plastic from a particular source floats with ocean currents.”
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