NDI BACKGROUND PAPER 1: Marine Plastic Debris Pollution in the Russian Arctic

Summary: This paper discusses marine plastic debris pollution, particularly the accumulation of microplastics in the oceans, which is one of the most significant environmental problems of our time both globally and in the Russian Arctic.

Microplastics are a term used to describe the vast volume of microscopic plastic debris currently found throughout the World Ocean and its coastlines. Primary microplastics are plastic microgranules specially produced and added to various products such as cosmetics, as well as used as the primary macroplastics raw material. Secondary microplastics are plastic fragments less than 5 mm in size, which are formed by the destruction of larger plastic debris, and by washing of synthetic items in washing machines. Some of these micro particles of plastics end up in wastewater, but most of them pass through the water treatment plant filters and penetrate the aquatic ecosystem.

Microplastics have a negative impact on living organisms in the ocean. In particular, plastic can cause physical harm and disrupt the body formation of marine animals, as well as cause their death by suffocation or ingestion of plastics. At the same time, plastics are able to accumulate persistent organic pollutants on their surface, which can poison marine animals, causing harm to the entire food chain.

As other world oceans, the Arctic Ocean and the Barents Sea have become a place for the accumulation of plastic, which causes great harm to the fragile ecosystem of the Arctic region. Researchers have discovered microplastics not only in the Arctic waters, but also in the Arctic sea ice. The sources of plastic debris include both pollution transport by oceanic currents from more populated areas of the planet, and local sources such as fishing and other commercial activities, as well as sewage.

The absorption of microplastics by fish and other marine animals has globally been identified as the most acute problems caused by marine debris pollution. This issue as a new line of research is poorly worked out on the territory of the Russian Federation in general, and in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation in particular. Therefore, there is urgent need both for research on this issue, and measures that would reduce the flow of marine debris and plastic into the waters of the Arctic.

Read more and download the Background Paper: Marine Plastic Debris Pollution in the Russian Arctic (PDF)

For more information, please contact the authors:
Konstantin Zaikov, Northern Arctic Federal University, Arkhangelsk, Russia,
k.zaikov [a] narfu.ru
Nikita Sobolev, Northern Arctic Federal University, Arkhangelsk, Russia,
n.sobolev [a] narfu.ru