Deep Dives into Arctic Beach Debris. Analysing its Composition and Origin

Melanie.Bergmann [ at ]


Plastic waste is ubiquitous in all ecosystems and has even reached locations humans may never reach such as the deep ocean floor and the atmosphere. Recent studies have highlighted that plastic debris is now pervasive in the isolated region of the Arctic. While modelling projections indicated local sources and long-distance transport as causes, empirical data about its origin and sources are scarce. Citizen scientists can increase the scale of observations, especially in those remote regions. Here, I analyze quantitative abundance and composition data of debris collected by citizen scientists on 14 remote Arctic beaches on the Spitsbergen archipelago. In addition, citizen scientists collected three big packs, here composition, sources and origin were determined. A total debris mass of 1,620 kg was collected on about 38,000 m2 (total mean = 41.83 g m-2, SEM = ± 31.62). In terms of abundance, 23,000 pieces of debris were collected on 25,500 m2 (total mean = 0.37 items of debris m-2, SEM = ± 0.17). Although most items were plastic in both abundance and mass, fisheries waste, such as nets, rope, and large containers, dominated in mass (87%) and general plastics, such as packaging and plastic articles, dominated in abundance (80%). Fisheries waste points to local sea-based sources from vessels operating in the Arctic. General plastics could point to land-based sources, riverine input, and ship waste, as debris is transported to the north via the oceans current. Overall, 1% of the items (206 pieces out of 14,707) collected in two big packs (2017 and 2021), bore imprints or labels allowing an analysis of their origin. Most items stem from nearby Arctic countries (local sources), such as Norway, Russia, Denmark/Greenland (48%) and Atlantic countries, which were mostly European (22%). Only 4% likely originate from more distant sources (USA, Brazil, China, etc.). International measures such as a globally accepted and obeyed plastic treaty with better waste management and upstream measures is urgently needed, to lower the amount of plastic entering our oceans and in turn lifting the pressure on the Arctic region and its sensitive biota.

Item Type
Thesis (Bachelor)
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Helmholtz Cross Cutting Activity (2021-2027)
Research Networks
Publication Status
Eprint ID
Cite as
Meyer, A. N. (2022): Deep Dives into Arctic Beach Debris. Analysing its Composition and Origin , Bachelor thesis, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel.

[thumbnail of DeepDivesIntoArcticBeachDebris_BAAnnaMeyer.pdf]

Download (4MB) | Preview

Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email

Research Platforms


Edit Item Edit Item