Social media and science combine to show how the ship’s plastic cargo dispersed from Florida to Norway


A ship container lost overboard in the North Atlantic has resulted in printer cartridges being washed everywhere from the coast of Florida to northern Norway, a new study has shown.

It also caused the elements to weather to form microplastics contaminated with a range of metals such as titanium, iron and copper.

The spill is believed to have occurred about 1,500 km east of New York City in January 2014, with the first stranded cartridges reported along the Azores coast in September of the same year.

Since then, around 1,500 more have been reported on social media, the largest amounts along the coasts of the UK and Ireland, but also south to Cape Verde and north to the edge of the Arctic Circle. Arctic.

The study was conducted by the University of Plymouth and theLost at Sea Project, who previously worked together on research suggesting that LEGO bricks could survive in the ocean for up to 1,300 years.

For this new research, they combined sighting data reported by members of the public and oceanographic modeling tools to show how the cartridges reached their resting place.

Some were carried by the Azores and Canary Islands currents around the North Atlantic vortex, while others were carried north with the North Atlantic and Norwegian currents.

Writing in the journal Environmental Pollution, the researchers say the dates of the first sightings suggested that the cartridges traveled on average between 6cm and 13cm per second, demonstrating how quickly floating objects can be dispersed across oceans.

Using microscopic and X-ray fluorescence analyzes, they also revealed a high degree of exterior aging which made the cartridge surfaces chalky and brittle.

This has led to the formation of titanium-rich microplastics, chemical fouling of the interior ink foams with iron oxides, and in some cases the presence of an electronic chip containing copper, gold and brominated compounds.

Significantly, say the study’s authors, the latter characteristic makes cartridges electrical and electronic waste and means the finds are not governed by the conventional regulations in place for plastic cargoes lost at sea.

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