Sailing race records high volume of plastic particles in the ocean

The global scale of plastic pollution could be much worse than previously thought. Microplastics have been found in some of the most remote regions of the oceans: samples taken from the middle of the South Indian Ocean show microplastic pollution detected at high volumes, 42 particles per cubic meter.

The samples were gathered by a research vessel taking part in the Volvo round-the-world ocean race. The race allows exploring areas so remote they have never been sampled before. The highest levels of plastic pollution were recorded around Europe’s north Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts (180-307 particles per cubic meter). Researchers also recorded high levels off the coast of Cape Town (152 per cubic meter) and the Australian coast (114-115 particles per cubic meter).

More than 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every year. Currently, scientists can only account for 1% of the plastic they think is in the ocean.

Photo by Brian Carlin/Volvo Ocean Race, infographics by The Guardian.