Amsterdam, 27 June 2018 – The seabed of the North Sea and the Celtic Sea have been monitored for, among others, plastic waste. Recently, the results of this long-term study —25 years’— have been published in Science of The Total Environment.

During the research period (1992-2017), waters surrounding the UK have been trawled 39 times. The contents of the fishing nets trawling the seabed were analyzed for a total of 2461 times. Plastics are widespread, varying from 0 to 1835 pieces of plastic per square kilometre. Oddly enough, there is no clear trend visible regarding the increase or decrease of the amount of plastic on the seabed. However, there are trends visible within certain categories of plastics.

An increase of waste originating from fishing fleets operating in the North Sea has been recorded.

The number of carrier bags found on the seabed of the North Sea has decreased since 2010. The authors of the study mentioned several different possible explanations for this decrease, for instance, a change in the composition of the plastic bags (this influences the speed of decomposition of the plastic) and the implementation of policies that reduced the use of single use carrier bags.

The researchers compared the waste found on the seabed of the two different seas, the North Sea and Celtic Sea. Plastics form the largest share of waste, varying from 65% to 94%. These plastics mainly consist of packaging, bags, bottles and fishing debris. And often organisms, such as muscles and polyps, inhabit this plastic. There were no large differences between the amount of plastic recorded in the North Sea and the Celtic Sea. Furthermore, there was no difference between the coastal areas and the open sea. And, compared to other studies, the amount of plastic found in both seas is relatively low. The current to the northeast of the Atlantic probably carries the plastic away. The study’s findings clearly indicate that there is evidence that implementing policies that decrease the use of plastic lead to a decrease of plastic waste at sea.

Also read: Plastics found in the deepest part of the ocean