Plastics in the Ocean

A growing number of recent scientific investigations conclude that there are considerable concerns about plastic pollution in the Arctic. This urgency has set off a series of management decisions and policy processes. Still, more data and a deeper knowledge of plastic pollution in the Arctic are required to understand the full scope of the problem, and develop sensible mitigation strategies which take into account research results.

Marine debris reaches the Arctic from various sources: marine litter breaks down into microplastics, manufactured microplastics enter the environment, and offshore industries such as tourism, oil & gas and aquaculture also contribute to plastic pollution. Once in the environment, these plastics move north and add to local pollution. The pathways of microplastics from land via air and freshwater systems into the Arctic Ocean are, however, virtually undocumented. Transformation of plastic debris through processes such as weathering, leaching and adsorption of contaminants and biofouling is poorly understood, but results in a ubiquitous presence of microplastics in all arctic habitats, also as a vector of harmful chemicals, of concern also for human health. Hence, biota of all trophic levels and functional groups can encounter plastic litter of various sizes and characteristics, with unknown impacts and consequences for ecosystem function.

Due to the all-encompassing nature of the problem, societal measures are urgently required. These include reducing the amount of litter produced by activities on land and at sea, including plastic production, handling, recycling and disposal, and incentives for reducing the amount of resources/nature used for plastic production.

This session aims to address these knowledge gaps. We welcome contributions that consider the properties, fate, and ecological impacts of plastic debris, as well as studies working towards better policy implementation and incentives to reduce further emissions into arctic and sub-arctic systems.

We welcome abstracts from studies that look at one or more of the topics named above.

Scientific committee members:

  • Dorte Herzke, NILU, Norway (lead)
  • Albert Koelmans, Wageningen University, Holland
  • Amy Lusher, NIVA, Norway
  • Claudia Halsband, Akvaplan-niva AS, Norway
  • Geir Wing Gabrielsen, Norwegian Polar Institute, Norway
  • Heidi Rapp Nilsen, NORUT, Norway
  • Jenna Jambeck, University of Georgia, USA
  • Secretary: France Collard, Norwegian Polar Institute, Norway


Alexey Pavlov Photo: Lars Olav Sparboe

Alexey Pavlov
+47 948 45 342

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