Social media and science show how ship’s plastic cargo dispersed from Florida to Norway – ScienceDaily

A ship container lost overboard in the North Atlantic has resulted in printer cartridges being washed everywhere from the coast of Florida to northern Norway, a new study has shown.

It also caused the elements to weather to form microplastics contaminated with a range of metals such as titanium, iron and copper.

The spill is believed to have occurred about 1,500 km east of New York City in January 2014, with the first stranded cartridges reported along the Azores coast in September of the same year.

Since then around 1,500 more have been reported on social media, the largest amounts along the coasts of the UK and Ireland, but as far south as Cape Verde and north to the edge of the circle. arctic polar.

The study was conducted by the University of Plymouth and the Lost at Sea Project, who previously worked together on research suggesting that LEGO bricks could survive in the ocean for up to 1,300 years.

For this new research, they combined sighting data reported by members of the public and oceanographic modeling tools to show how the cartridges reached their resting place.

Some were carried by the Azores and Canary currents around the North Atlantic vortex, while others were carried north with the North Atlantic and Norwegian currents.

Write in the journal Environmental pollution, the researchers say the dates of the first sightings suggested the cartridges were traveling an average of 6cm to 13cm per second, demonstrating how quickly floating objects can be dispersed across oceans.

Using microscopic and X-ray fluorescence analyzes, they also revealed a high degree of exterior aging which caused the surfaces of the cartridges to become chalky and brittle.

This has led to the formation of titanium-rich microplastics, chemical fouling of the interior ink foams with iron oxides, and in some cases the presence of an electronic chip containing copper, gold and brominated compounds.

Significantly, say the study’s authors, this latter characteristic makes cartridges waste electrical and electronic and means the finds are not governed by the conventional regulations in place for plastic cargoes lost at sea.

Senior author Dr Andrew Turner, associate professor (reader) of environmental science at the University of Plymouth, said: “Cargo spills are not common, but estimates suggest that several thousand containers could be lost at sea every year. but, once broken, their content can have an impact both where they are lost and – as this study shows – much more broadly. This research has also shown once again how plastics not designed to be exposed to nature can break down and become a source of microplastics in the environment. It also calls into question the relevance and robustness of current instruments and conventions that deal with plastic waste and its accidental losses at sea. “

Tracey Williams, Founder of the Cornwall-based Lost at Sea Project, added: “This study also highlights the potential utility of social media-based citizen science for marine research. For many years, members of the public have helped us show the amount of plastic in our seas and on our beaches. It is something that people care passionately about and are committed to trying to address. “

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Material provided by Plymouth University. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.

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