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Biodegradability of Plastics: Challenges and Misconceptions

Biodegradability of Plastics: Challenges and Misconceptions

Category
Journal publication
Abstract
Plastics are one of the most widely used materials and, in most cases, they are designed to have long life times. Thus, plastics contain a complex blend of stabilizers that prevent them from degrading too quickly. Unfortunately, many of the most advantageous properties of plastics such as their chemical, physical and biological inertness and durability present challenges when plastic is released into the environment. Common plastics such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are extremely persistent in the environment, where they undergo very slow fragmentation (projected to take centuries) into small particles through photo-, physical, and biological degradation processes1. The fragmentation of the material into increasingly smaller pieces is an unavoidable stage of the degradation process. Ultimately, plastic materials degrade to micron-sized particles (microplastics), which are persistent in the environment and present a potential source of harm for organisms.
Client
  • Norges forskningsråd / 268404
Language
English
Affiliation
  • SINTEF Industry / Materials and Nanotechnology
  • SINTEF Ocean / Miljø og nye ressurser
Year
2017
Published in
Environmental Science and Technology
ISSN
0013-936X
Publisher
ACS Publications
Volume
51
Issue
21
Page(s)
12058 - 12060