Plastic in a bottle: Live map

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Plastic in a bottle #1: Iceland

Launched: 12 September 2019 (from Reykjanes peninsula)
Landed: 6 April 2020 (Tiree, Scotland)
Days at sea: 207

See full story below

Plastic in a bottle #2: Netherlands

Launched: 31 May 2021 (from Texel, Netherlands)
Landed: 15 July 2021 (Terschelling (Netherlands)
Days at sea: 4 5
- Re-launched: 8 August 2021 (Netherlands)
- Landed: 27 August 2021 (Sylt, Germany)
- Days at sea: 19

Plastic in a bottle #3 Finland and Norway (1)

Launched: 6 May 2021 (from Northern Baltic Sea)
Landed: 24 September 2021 (Nedre-Öre, Sweden)
Days at sea: 141
Re-launched: 9 June 2022 (Southern Baltic Sea)
Landed: 19 June 2022 (Köpu, Estonia)
Days at sea: 10

Plastic in a bottle #4 Finland and Norway (2)

Launched: 23 June 2021 (from Svalbard)
Landed: 3 April 2023 (Tiree, Scotland)
Days at sea: 649

Plastic in a bottle #5: Norway (1)

Launched: 12 March 2023 (from Barents Sea)
Landed: 17 July 2023 (Porsangerfjorden, Norway)
Days at sea: 127

Plastic in a bottle #6: Finland and Norway (3)

Launched: 3 June 2023 (from Svalbard)
Not landed

See news story with a video of the launch here

Plastic in a bottle #7: Norway (3)

Launched: 18 August 2023 (Arctic Ocean)
Not landed

November 2023
Northernmost “Plastic in a Bottle” launched to gain insight on Arctic plastic pollution
Launched at 84 degrees north, the capsule will enable the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment to track how plastics travel in and out of Arctic waters

The latest Plastic in a Bottle launch is the seventh capsule released since the project started in 2019, and the first one launched around sea ice. The capsule was tossed into the ocean at 84 degrees north during a research cruise for students and early career scientists by the Norwegian Polar Institute on the icebreaker RV Kronprins Haakon.

“According to our knowledge of the area, we anticipate the capsule will drift westward into the Fram Strait, and possibly reach Greenland or Iceland,” said Ole Arve Misund, Director of the Norwegian Polar Institute. “We will track its movements as it drifts along with the sea ice before it is released in the area of the Fram Strait where the ice is melting rapidly.”

Plastic debris can be found on Arctic beaches, in the water column, in sea ice, sediments and even in the bodies of Arctic birds and mammals.

“There are many ways that plastic can make its way into and around the Arctic, whether it’s from rivers, wind, ocean currents or other means,” said Elizabeth McLanahan, Director at NOAA and Vice-Chair of PAME, who was on board the research cruise and tossed the capsule into the sea. “Plastic in a Bottle is a way to help the public visualize how an item of trash – perhaps their water bottle left at a picnic or even on a tourist boat – can travel miles away and affect the marine environment.”

NOTE: The latest capsule’s proximity to sea ice may have hindered the solar-powered GPS. After its launch on 18 August, the GPS signal has gone quiet, indicating that the capsule may have quickly become embedded in sea ice without access to adequate sunlight. Only time – and perhaps the 2024 summer sea ice retreat – will tell when the GPS signal can be reached again.

May 2021
Wageningen University & Research and PAME launch a capsule to track the journey of marine litter from the Netherlands
On 31. May 2021, a special capsule was launched at sea, some 25 miles West of the island of Texel in the Netherlands. The live position of this 'Plastic in a Bottle' capsule can be tracked online and shows the route that plastic waste may travel once it enters the North Sea.

Researcher Wouter Jan Strietman: “Not many people realise what happens to 'our' plastic waste once it enters the North Sea. To see where plastic waste may travel from the Netherlands, our collaboration partner Eelco Leemans of Leeways Marine released a special 'Plastic in a Bottle' capsule from a sailing ship some 25 miles West of the island of Texel in the Netherlands. We invite the public to follow the journey of this capsule with us online”.

“Under the influence of wind and sea currents, this capsule may travel to a nearby beach or, who knows, perhaps even to the Arctic. This is certainly a possibility, since every year, substantial amounts of plastic are transported there from Western Europe and North America. This accumulation of plastics poses a threat to nature, shipping safety and tourism in the region. In the Arctic Marine Litter Project, we are doing more extensive research into the origin and causes of marine litter in the Arctic, helping stakeholders in the region to prevent it at the source”, says Strietman.

The capsule was released to raise public awareness about plastic waste that ends up in the Arctic and the need for action to stop this. The ’Plastic in a Bottle’ communication project is an initiative by the Arctic Council’s Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Working Group (PAME). The launch of this capsule was organised by Wageningen University & Research and Leeways Marine, in collaboration with PAME and the Dutch Government, who funds the capsule. Once washed ashore, a message inside the capsule will instruct the finder what to do and who to contact.”
The Arctic Marine Litter Project

There is an urgent need to halt the constant inflow of plastic waste into the Arctic and the most effective solution is prevention at the source. In the Arctic Marine Litter Project, researcher Wouter Jan Strietman and his team of Wageningen University & Research (WUR) work with partners throughout the Arctic to identify the sources, underlying causes of marine plastic pollution in the region. This new knowledge can be used by stakeholders in the region to address this issue more effectively.

The capsule at the launch. Photo: E. Leemans.
Finnish and Norwegian initiative "Northern Marine Litter" launches two capsules.

Plastic in a bottle sent two new capsules during June 2021 in collaboration with a project “Northern Marine Litter” in Finland and the Norwegian Polar Institute. The project is funded by the Finland’s Ministry for Foreign affairs, and it aims to enhance research and monitoring collaboration between Finland, the Baltic and Arctic states.

The Baltic Sea is a semi-enclosed marginal Arctic Sea freezing over annually and with high pressure from the human activities on the marine environment. Marine litter is also a recognized environmental problem in the Baltic. One of the buoys will be released in the Northern Baltic Sea during an annual research cruise on research vessel R/V Aranda by the Finnish Environment Institute. From the Baltic buoy it is possible to follow the transport of marine litter in a relatively densely populated and closed marine system compared to the Arctic.

A second marine litter capsule funded by Finland was launched in collaboration with the Norwegian Polar Institute from their research cruise west of Svalbard at 77.2725 N and 11.4687 E. The capsule was deployed by Ida Kristin Danielsen from the Norwegian Polar Institute, who works with PAME-related issues at the NPI management department. The capsule started its journey on 23th June and has travelled with current fast, even over 30 km per day and is now north of 80 latitude.

The Svalbard launch is the northernmost for the Plastic in a bottle project so far and will give highlight high Arctic transport routes for marine litter.



April 6th 2020: Capsule retrieved

PAME‘s Plastic in a Bottle capsule travelled around 7.000 kilometers in 207 days before washing on shore in the Isle of Tiree, Scotland today 6 April 2020.

The aim of this project is to simulate how marine litter and plastics can be expected to travel far distances into and out of Arctic waters.The map to the right shows the journey and the location where it was found.

The map shows how the capsule travelled from Iceland, up to Greenland where it circulated for a while, going further south towards Newfoundland, before heading east.

It looked like it would reach the shore on South Uist in Scotland, but went on and washed up – notably without its yellow foam coat which was for protection – in Tiree.

This is the second capsule that Verkís has sent out which ends up on the coast of the Isle of Tiree. The beautiful beaches there probably may have some litter originating in Iceland!

PAME will be releasing more capsules, the next one will be in conjunction with a project by the Netherlands. That project is scheduled for the summer of 2020.

It was retrieved by Hayley Douglas on April 6th 2020 (pictured). She also put more images on her Twitter account.

 EU6m MtXYAEGyoA    capsule


12 September 2019: Capsule launched

IMG 2540PAME launched the first bottle equipped with a GPS transmitter into the Atlantic on 12 September 2019. Called “plastic in a bottle”, the capsule will simulate how marine litter and plastics travel far distances into and out of Arctic waters. The collected data will feed into a regional action plan on marine litter and serve as an outreach tool to create awareness around the growing concerns on marine litter in the Arctic.

This first plastic in a bottle was sent off from the Reykjanes peninsula by Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Iceland’s Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources from the Icelandic Coast Guard vessel Thor in conjunction with the PAME II-2019 Working Group meeting in Reykjavík. Iceland holds the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council until 2021 and places a special focus on marine litter and plastics in the Arctic.

The saying “out of sight, out of mind” does not apply to litter that has made their way into the ocean. Currents, streams, waves and wind carry marine litter across the seas. Neither the deep sea nor beaches in the Arctic are exempt from this pollution. However, when it comes to how plastics travel into and out of Arctic waters, our knowledge on the trajectories of this marine litter remains limited. With this capsule PAME is seeking to gain valuable information to better understand this problem.

IMG 2541Over the next few months PAME will be launching more bottles from different locations across the Arctic. The bottles were designed and built by Icelandic engineering firm Verkís. Every day, the GPS transmitter sends a signal allowing viewers to follow the journey of the bottle in real time through an online map on the PAME website. “Our aim is to show how expansively marine litter and plastics can travel and to gain a better understanding of how plastics that originate from far away end up on shores in the Arctic. The project is also a great outreach tool to create awareness around the issue of marine litter and plastics in the Arctic”, said Soffía Guðmundsdóttir, PAME’s Executive Secretary.

The PAME Working Group aims at releasing the remaining bottles in different areas across the Arctic. “We have discussed different areas with experts on oceanography and meteorology and a leading expert in Iceland on ocean currents. According to them, one could not expect an object like the plastic capsules could travel long distances to certain areas with ocean currents. Weather and waves may have substantial effects on the capsules in addition to currents,” explained Soffía.

Tackling the issue of marine litter and especially plastics in the Arctic is one of the Arctic Council’s priorities during Iceland’s Chairmanship. At the end of its Chairmanship in May 2021, Iceland plans to provide a comprehensive regional action plan on marine litter and plastics in the Arctic to the Ministers of the Arctic Council.

PAME worked closely together with Verkís in developing the bottles. Verkís has been involved in similar projects in the past and has seen its bottles travel thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean for well over a year – reaching Norway, Scotland and the Faroe Islands after being released from Iceland.

bottle“Verkís is thrilled to take part in conveying such an important message across. We have previously been involved in similar projects with the aim of highlighting how marine litter travels and causes problems across the oceans. One of our capsules travelled over 5000 kilometers and washed ashore in northern Norway, six months later,” Arnór Þórir Sigurðsson, Animal Ecologist at Verkís said.

Once washed ashore, a message inside the bottle will instruct the finder what to do with the bottle.


See also:


The project gratefully acknowledges funding from the Nordic Council of Ministers.

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