Anthropogenic microlitter in wastewater and marine samples from Ny-Ålesund, Barentsburg and Signehamna, Svalbard

Plastic pollution is recognized as a serious threat to the marine environment and is even found in the remote Arctic. Marine litter can be transported long distances with ocean currents but may also originate from local sources, e.g. shipping, fisheries, land-based industries, dumping sites and wastewater outlets. Wastewater treatment is generally lacking in the Arctic, and waste- and wastewater management sometimes equal conditions observed in developing countries. With few local exceptions, wastewater treatment is absent also in Svalbard. The aim of this study was to quantify the relative importance local sources, focusing on wastewater, for marine litter pollution in Svalbard.


Antropogenic microparticles (AMPs; (0.01≤5 mm) composed of, e.g. plastic, paint, rubber or textile fibers) were analyzed in wastewater from the newly installed (2015) treatment plant in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard and in seawater and sediments from coastal marine areas nearby. AMPs were found at all sites and in all investigated matrices. Wastewater and seawater were dominated by fibres while sediments were dominated by fragments. Higher concentrations of AMPs and higher polymeric diversity was observed closer to human activities. As much as 99 % of the incoming AMPs may be retained by the wastewater treatment plant in Ny-Ålesund. Wastewater treatment may thus substantially reduce the release of AMPs and associated contaminants to the marine environment and should be installed in the Arctic.

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Last updated: 2021-05-05

IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute

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IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute has a wide environmental profile. We combine applied research and development with close collaboration between industry and the public sphere. Our consultancy is evidence-based, and our research is characterized by interdisciplinary science and system thinking.


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