Microplastics Are Being Buried Deep Under the Ocean Due to Underwater Avalanches
Wed, April 21, 2021

Microplastics Are Being Buried Deep Under the Ocean Due to Underwater Avalanches


Plastic dominating our oceans and our beaches has become a global crisis. Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in our oceans, polluting our waters and killing marine animals. Even if you live hundreds of miles from the coast, the plastic you throw away could make its way into the sea. Recent studies suggest that about 10 million lbs. of plastic makes its way into the ocean annually, which could increase by about 10 times by 2025 if no proper solution is made. 


Credits: Hakai Magazine


But aside from the plastics we see in our oceans, there’s a kind of plastic that can’t be seen yet is still dangerous: microplastics. According to Live Science, a science news website that features groundbreaking developments in science, space, technology, health, the environment, our culture, and history, there’s a huge possibility that these microplastics will end up in the food chain. This is because critters in microplastic hotspots feed on the waste in sediment and pass them on to their predators.


Credits: AZoCleantech.com


A recent study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology discovered that massive movements of undersea sediment known as "submarine avalanches" are likely burying bits of microplastic deep under the ocean. "This is in contrast to what we have seen in rivers, where floods flush out microplastics; the high sediment load in these deep ocean currents causes fibers to be trapped on the seafloor, as sediment settles out of the flows," study author Ian Kane, an earth and environmental science researcher at the University of Manchester in England, said. 


Credits: Kurakin Alexander via Shutterstock


The researchers simulated this undersea sediment in their lab in much smaller "flume tanks” to understand how it flows underwater. They found that polyester fibers ended up distributed more evenly, while non-fibrous microplastics bits of plastic bags tended to settle out of the flow at low points. One of the findings of the study revealed that much of the plastic ends up buried beneath the seafloor surface as a result of these sediment flows. 




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