Microplastics in ARCTIC Sea ice

There are currently only two studies demonstrating the presence of microplastics in Arctic sea ice. Arctic ice collected from remote locations has been observed to contain 38 to 234 microplastic particles per cubic meter, with a concentration several magnitudes higher compared to the surface waters of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. When sea ice forms, it scavenges particulates from the surrounding water which may lead to their enrichment in the ice. It has been proposed that particles that are less dense than seawater and irregular in shape may get trapped in the ice easier than for example silt or sand.

The microplastics found from the sea ice in Arctic comprised of particles ranging in size from 20 µm to 2 mm. Most of the particles were fibers made of rayon, which made up 54 % of all found synthetic particles followed by polyester (21 %) and nylon (16 %). Also polypropylene, polystyrene, acrylic and polyethylene were found. However, in another study polyethylene was the most abundant type in the ice cores taken from the Arctic. It is suggested that Arctic sea ice acts both as a sink and a vector for microplastics by trapping, transporting and releasing them in the surrounding environment.

However, the results should be interpreted with caution since our knowledge about this issue is restricted to only two studies. To present knowledge, similar studies have not yet been made in Antarctic.