While plastic appeared to be a great invention as described by the french philosopher Roland Barthes in Mythologies (1957) who used the term “a plasticized world” for the benefit of all, today the enthusiasm for plastic would certainly not be the same. 8.3 Billion tons of plastic have been produced between 1950 to 2015 of which some ends up in the sea generating the so-called “marine litter” which poorly degrades, accumulates on the sea floor and on the shoreline causing major visual impact but also severe harm to marine life throughout the ecological chain. Marine litter is also present and increasing in the Arctic. While some mapping and characterization has been done, major gaps of knowledge to understand where the litter is distributed throughout the Norwegian, Barents, Kara Seas and the high Arctic and what it’s characteristics and sources are, remain unexplored.
In this project, the main objective is to map areas of marine litter and describe its characteristics in the Arctic in collaboration with Russian institutions with a multi-disciplinary approach. We will extract data from the scientific & grey literature on the distribution of litter in the Norwegian Russian Arctic, identify ongoing activities on this topic both in Norway and Russia, build up a joint Norwegian Russian database, perform mapping using multidisciplinary approaches (robotics, digital solutions, GIS, satellite pictures), Collect offshore data using research cruises of opportunity, develop a predictive tool for litter distribution, and importantly, disseminate the findings to the students, public and policy makers both nationally in Norway and Russia and also internationally (EU, UNEP, Arctic Council). Through such a project, we believe that thorough science, along with professional communication to kids, education of students and delivering high quality information to policy makers, the enthusiasm for plastic may rise again!