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Oil and plastic in the oceans

Plastic is the most widespread pollution in the ocean. At the department, we are researhing how microplastic affects the environment. Microplastics are plastic particles that are smaller than approx. 5 mm in diameter. Most of the environmental pollution from microplastics is due to the decomposition of larger plastic waste such as car tires and products from industrial processes. Other sources are as an example cosmetics and clothing.

Oil pollution is also one of the major contributors to pollution in the sea. The pollution can be a result of ship accidents or similar. It can also come from diffuse pollutions such as ordinary shipping traffic and leakages of oil from natural sources in areas containing oil in the ground, for example around Greenland.

Pollutions with both plastic and oil are very visible. We see pictures of oil-covered birds and fish with plastic in their stomachs. However, both plastic and oil contain a number of harmful chemicals that also can affect the environment and accumulate in living organisms. At the institute, we focus on the chemical substances from plastics and oil and their effects.