The plastic debris problem in the ocean could be worse than some studies have estimated, according to a new report.
University of Washington oceanographer Giora Proskurowski and Tobias Kukulka of the University of Delaware say they found that high winds push lightweight plastic particles deep below the ocean surface — deeper than previous studies had realized.
That meant decades of research on plastic marine debris may in some cases vastly underestimate the true amount of plastic debris in the oceans, Proskurowski said in a news release from UW.
Proskurowski's data came from a 2010 North Atlantic expedition, where he and his team collected samples at the surface, plus an additional three or four depths down as far as 100 feet.
Proskurowski said more research is needed, because at this point oceanographers just don't have a good handle on how much plastic is in the ocean.
He added: “On this topic, what science needs to be geared toward is building confidence that scientists have solid numbers and that policy makers aren't making judgments based on CNN reports.”
Research for the report included data from the Sea Education Association's Plastics at SEA program.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.”