Microplastic in Icelandic glaciers

26.04.2021 - 10:50
Horft yfir jökulinn af Grímsfjalli í átt að Hvannadalshnjúk.
 Mynd: Lára Ómarsdóttir - RÚV
The presence of microplastics has been confirmed in Icelandic glaciers.

New Icelandic research has confirmed the presence of microplastics in Vatnajökull; Europe’s largest glacier. Initial findings from Hofsjökull glacier indicate the same.

The research follows similar findings in the Alps and scientists believe it probably means there are microplastics in all of Iceland’s glaciers. The research was a joint project between Reykjavik University, the University of Gothenburg, and the Icelandic Met Office and the results were published in the Sustainability journal.

Researcher Einar Jón Ásbjörnsson, a Reykjavik University School of Engineering lecturer, explains: “The main results were that we found microplastics in the glacier, which had not been confirmed before. We had seen indications from overseas that people had been finding microplastics in the Alps but it had not been tested here in Iceland before.”

Is it possible it came from evaporation and arrived with rainwater?

“It could be. It could have come from the sea," Einar says. "People have been looking into whether microplastics from the sea can get up into the cycle and that is future research.”  

Asked if the results from Vatnajökull and Hofsjökull indicate there is probably plastic in all Icelandic glaciers, Einar says: “Yes. One can strongly expect so.” 

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Alexander Elliott
Project manager