If Arctic birds and fish had their own version of the Brexit referendum, they'd probably choose to part ways with plastic trash that's drifting northward from the UK and killing them.
A new analysis from researchers at the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London shows that a large fraction of the plastic waste from the UK that gets into the ocean drifts northward and accumulates in the Arctic Ocean.
The UK isn't one of the world's top sources of plastic pollution, but it does discard more than 2.5 million tons of plastic packaging waste each year, according to a 2015 government report. Less than a quarter of that is recycled.
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The Imperial College researchers used an online tool to track ocean currents and determine the path of plastic waste northward.
According to a press release, the researchers found that after being flushed into the sea from the coastlines of the UK, much of the plastic that doesn't wash back onto the beach or sink to the ocean floor drifts over two years towards the Barents Sea, north of Norway, before circulating in the Arctic.
Once the plastic gets to the Arctic Ocean, some birds, fish and other marine organisms mistakenly eat it, while others are poisoned by it. Some also become entangled in the trash.
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