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Scientists: Onega, Northern Dvina Rivers bring more plastics to ocean than European rivers

Every year, about 300 million tons of plastics get into water and landfills

TASS, March 16. Russian and Norwegian scientists found that the Northern Dvina and the Onega Rivers bring to the White Sea the amounts of plastics bigger than the litter from the Rhine, the Rhone and other big European rivers, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology's press service said referring to an article published in the Journal of Marine Science and Engineering.

"We have found for the first time how much litter carry the Northern Dvina and the Onega Rivers, two biggest rivers running into the White Sea. We have found that about 60% of anthropogenic litter flown by those rivers is plastics. Generally speaking, the Onega and the Northern Dvina carry more litter than European rivers, though less than Chinese and other Asian rivers," the researchers said.

Every year, about 300 million tons of plastics get into water and landfills. Most litter cannot be processed by soil bacteria and remains unchanged for decades or even centuries. This explains why ecology and ocean researchers have been calling the recent half a century the Plastic Era, saying the amount of polymeric micro fragments in the World Ocean is huge.

Maria Pogojeva of the Zubov State Oceanography Institute (Moscow) and other researchers have been studying for a few years how plastic litter gets into the World Ocean. Two years ago, they found that European rivers every year bring to the World Ocean 300-900 million fragments of litter, where about 80% are fragments of various disposable plastic items.

Plastic litter in Russian Arctic

The researchers wanted to learn amounts of plastic particles and other anthropogenic and natural litter the Northern Dvina and the Onega, two biggest rivers in the Polar Region, bring into the White Sea. Coasts of those two rivers are rather densely populated and thus they can be sources of high plastic pollution.

Russian scientists organized an expedition to those two Arctic rivers, where between May and November, 2021, they were watching sizes, amounts and characteristics of the floating anthropogenic and natural litter. By having measured the items, the experts could specify types of litter and typical amounts of big and small particles in the riverine litter flux.

On one hand, the observations have shown the biggest share of the litter - about 77% - was leaves, wood fragments, bird feathers and other natural objects. At the same time, the scientists found that the Northern Dvina and the Onega about every hour were taking to the White Sea about 205 - 1,700 and 520 - 2,350 particles of anthropogenic litter, where 60% were plastics.

Thus, the scientists conclude, Russian northern rivers have bigger litter flux than Europe's big rivers, like France's Rhone or German's Rhine. However, the litter flux of most Chinese and East-Asian rivers is still bigger. This conclusion is important in understanding of how plastic litter spreads in the Arctic Ocean, the scientists said.