19 Aug 2020 - The mass of so-called invisible microplastics found in the upper waters of the Atlantic has a weight of around 12 to 21 million tonnes, according to new research.
However, the estimate only takes into account three of the most common types of plastic litter in a limited size range.
The figure is comparable in magnitude to estimates of all plastic waste that has entered the Atlantic over the past 65 years - 17 million tonnes, according to a study published in Nature Communications.
This suggests the supply of plastic to the ocean has been substantially underestimated, researchers say.
The study focused on polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene, which are the most prominent plastics commercially and also the most littered types, according to the experts.
Professor Richard Lampitt, from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and one of the co-authors of the paper, said: "If we assume that the concentration of microplastics we measured at around 200 metres deep is representative of that in the water mass to the seafloor below with an average depth of about 3,000 metres, then the Atlantic Ocean might hold about 200 million tonnes of plastic litter in this limited polymer type and size category.
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