Microplastic Contamination of the Canadian Archipelago


  • S Kolter* MacEwan University, Physical Sciences Department
  • A Pieńkowski MacEwan University, Physical Sciences Department
  • A Furze MacEwan University, Physical Sciences Department
  • M Ross MacEwan University, Physical Sciences Department


Microplastics (MPs) are considered to be synthetic polymeric material <5mm in size and originate from either primary sources, those manufactured to be <5mm in size, or from the breakdown of larger pieces by physical, chemical and radioactive processes. These fragments may become small enough to allow them to be ingested and bio-accumulate. MP pollution has been recorded in marine sediments in nearly all of the Earth’s oceans and has been recently quantified in Greenlandic sea ice and Greenlandic sea way sediments. An independent research project with Drs Matthew Ross, Anna Pieńkowski and Mark Furze in the Fall of 2017 quantified MP pollution in Frobisher Bay sediments.

Eleven samples were collected during the 2017 summer expedition aboard the CCG Amundsen ice breaker. They were taken in a linear fashion within Frobisher Bay allowing for the correlation of MP deposition and proximity to anthropogenic habit in the area. Extraction procedures were based on modifications of standard methods developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This includes four procedures which aimed to separate MPs from sediments and micro-organic materials by exploiting differing density and dissolution properties. We collected sieved MPs of five size ranges via vacuum filtration onto 0.45μm filter paper for analysis. Subsequent visual mapping allowed large scale processing of data and pinpoints areas of interest for spectral analysis. Using Raman microscopy, polymer identification may allow us to understand sources and migratory patterns of MPs. This process allowed us to quantify MP contamination in Arctic sediments enhancing global data sets for future research into MP source, transport and fate.

We can conclude that MP contamination is found at higher concentrations nearest the City of Iqaluit relative to mouth of Frobisher Bay with averages ranging between 13.08 MPs per gram of sediment (mp/gs) and 5.31 mp/gs respectively. This suggests that relatively small communities can have a significant impact on MP contamination levels in secluded oceanic bays.

I look forward to the opportunity to further disseminate microplastic contamination research as it is vital in increasing public awareness and pressure on policy makers to initiate mitigation and reclamation of this very important global issue.

*Indicates presenter





Presentation Abstracts