Chunks of plastic have been found on remote frozen ice floes just 1,000 miles from the North Pole (stock picture)
Chunks of plastic have been found on remote frozen ice floes just 1,000 miles from the North Pole, the first such find in an area previously inaccessible because of sea ice.
Scientists say it is one of the most northerly sightings of plastic in the world's waters and fear the material is flowing into the Arctic as ice melts as a result of Climate Change.
Exeter University's Tim Gordon led a team containing members from the UK, US, Norway and Hong Kong on explorer Pen Hadow's exhibition to the North Pole and was shocked to find the blocks of polystyrene, reports the Observer.
The plastic was found on ice floes between 77° and 80° north in the Arctic Ocean.
Mr Hadow said: 'For the 25 years I have been exploring the Arctic I have never seen such large and very visible items of rubbish.
'The blocks of polystyrene were just sitting on top of the ice.'
The world's oceans are heavily polluted with plastic and it poses a significant threat to wildlife.
Scientists say it is one of the most northerly sightings of plastic in the world's waters and fear the material is flowing into the Arctic as ice melts (stock image)
One study estimated there are more than five trillion pieces of plastic clogging up our oceans – with some experts claiming it is now that prolific it will form a permanent layer in the fossil record.
The polystyrene chunks were discovered on a groundbreaking mission that used two yachts to sail further into international waters of the Central Arctic Ocean than ever before without the use of icebreakers.
It is estimated humans produce around 300 millions tons of plastic each year with around half of that used just once before being disposed of.
POLLUTION IN NUMBERS
The Ocean Cleanup Project has estimated that there is up to 5 trillion pounds of plastic in the sea, and two-thirds of it comes from the 20 most contaminated rivers – 67% of the global total.
The team had also noted that the pollution costs at least $8 billion (7.1 billion euros) in damage to marine ecosystems and killing an estimated one million sea birds, 100,000 sea mammals and untold numbers of fish.
The Yangtze, the world's third-longest river, 'is the largest contributing catchment', dumping some 727 million pounds of plastic into the East China Sea each year.
Other than the Yangtze, the Ganges River in India with 98 million lbs per month.
A combination of the Xi, Dong and Zhujiang Rivers (233 million lbs per year) in China as well as four Indonesian rivers: the Brantas (85 million lbs annually), Solo (71 million pounds per year), Serayu (37 million lbs per year) and Progo (28 million lbs per year), are all large contributors.
The rest of the world shared the remaining 14 percent of plastic pollution via rivers, researchers said.
The plastic wreaks havoc on the earth's ecosystem when it breaks down into microplastics and enters the food chain.
It is then found inside the bodies of animals.
Scientists say microplastics end up gathered in the Arctic because a high number of rivers empty into the Arctic basin. The melting ice means these previously frozen plastics are released into the oceans.
It is feared that by summer 2050 the Arctic Ocean will be free of ice, bringing with it concerns previously impossible human intervention will have a detrimental effect on wildlife.
Commercial fishing, shipping and industry are all worries.
As well as plastic pollution, the team is studying the impact of human-made noise pollution on the Arctic and what impact the ice loss will have on how sound travels through the sea.
Many animals, including beluga wales, ringed seals and walruses, depend on using sounds for navigation and communication in the pitch black icy depths.
And narwhals use biosonar to hunt for fish under water.
They emit 1,000 high-pitched clicks every second and listen to the reflected echoes.