Biodegradable plastics don’t disintegrate as quickly in the ocean

By Matt Allchin

A new report from the United Nations presents a couple of environmental problems regarding biodegradable plastics. Biodegradable plastics were designed to help reduce waste but some polymers need to be exposed to prolonged temperatures to disintegrate which is hard to come by in nature.

Ocean degredation rates are even lower because UV light penetration is limited. On top of this it is cold and there is less oxygen so these plastics will just stay there for a long period of time.

The biodegradable plastics also pose a problem for recycling. Mixing biodegradable plastics with standard plastics can compromise the properties of the original plastic. When the plastic does disintegrate, the fragments behave exactly the same way as a standard piece of polyethylene which poses a threat to wildlife.

Ice in the Arctic ends up trapping a lot of fragments because it is too cold for them to disintegrate. The amount of micro plastics in these areas are at least three times more abundant than in other areas in oceans.

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