A capsule containing a GPS transmitter travelled several thousand kilometres from Iceland to Scotland –highlighting how marine litter can travel.

How do marine litter and plastics travel long distances into and out of Arctic waters? A project by the Protection of the Arctic Marin Environment (PAME) Working Group of the Arctic Council aimed to find out with "Plastic in a Bottle".

The custom-built capsule, containing a GPS transmitter and surrounded with bright protective yellow foam was tossed into the sea off Iceland in September 2019. Each day since, the capsule has broadcast its location. A live map showed its looping journey.

The capsule was originally launched by Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Iceland’s Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources from the Icelandic Coast Guard vessel Thor.

Since that launch, the capsule has travelled from Iceland, up to Greenland where it circulated for a while, going further south towards Newfoundland, before heading east.

Around 7,000 kilometers and 207 days later, the capsule was retrieved by Hayley Douglas on Isle of Tiree, Scotland, 6 April 2020.

This is the second capsule that has ended up on the coast of the Isle of Tiree. The beautiful beaches there may have some litter originating in Iceland!

Now, the data PAME’s bottle collected on its journey will feed into a regional action plan on marine litter. This plan is one of the outcomes that are anticipated from the current Icelandic Chairmanship of the Arctic Council (2019-2021), which places a special focus on marine litter and plastics in the Arctic.

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.

About the project:

PAME‘s (Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Working Group of the Arctic Council) 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.

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.