Scientists find record levels of microplastics in Arctic sea ice - including evidence of cigarette butts

Frozen foe – evidence of cigarette butts were found in an analysis of Arctic sea ice (Picture: Getty)

Cigarette butts are among pollutants found frozen in Arctic sea ice, scientists have revealed.

Experts found the plastic commonly associated with cigarette butts in an analysis of microplastics found in Arctic sea ice.

The study, published in Nature Communications, found record concentrations of microplastics in Arctic sea ice, with samples containing up to 12,000 particles per litre of sea ice – two or three times higher than previous analyses.

The samples revealed localised sources of microplastics – which are ingested by sea animals -including plastic indicative of cigarette filters.


Microplastics – some of the microplastics found are indicative of cigarette butts (Picture: Getty)

The researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Germany, collected samples over three expeditions from five different areas along the Transpolar Drift.

They looked at the content and composition of microplastics  in sea ice to look at how it varies and how the ice could be moving plastics around the ocean.

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Its make-up also allowed the experts to trace the particles back to their possible sources, including the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’.

Dr Ilka Peeken, one of the study’s authors, told The Independent: “We are seeing a clear human imprint in the Arctic. What is interesting also is you have very localised sources – ship paint particles and cigarette butts and stuff like that.”