Plastic debris getting dumped in the world’s oceans is a massive problem that many organizations and environmental groups are trying address.
For example, manufacturers have tried to combat the issue by developing lightweight plastic products; in theory, these are supposed to disintegrate rapidly, helping to reduce the existing hazards to marine animals.
But the United Nations’ top environmental scientist doesn’t believe that these so-called ‘biodegradable plastics’ are the answer because they don’t break down as promised. Instead, these ‘green’ plastics are just as problematic for the ocean’s waters as any other variety.
According to previous research, biodegradable plastic products do not decompose more rapidly in landfills. But a UN report issued this week confirms the allegedly eco-friendly plastics also have a hard time deteriorating at an accelerated rate in the ocean.
The report also revealed that the manufacturer claims that the only environment in which they do dissolve is in industrial digesters – which doesn’t help at all the problem for the 32 percent of the world’s plastic that doesn’t end up in waste management facilities.
Jacqueline McGlade, the leading scientist at the UN Environment Program, explains that creating biodegradable plastics is not the solution to the problem of ocean plastic. “It’s well-intentioned but wrong. A lot of plastics labeled biodegradable, like shopping bags, will only break down in temperatures of 50C (122F) and that is not the ocean.”
Also, because they’re not buoyant, these plastics are going to sink and stay away from the UV rays that could help break them down.
Ironically, the report found that some of the additives included in the composition of the ‘green’ plastic also to make it more likely to biodegrade also contribute to its resistance to recycling.
In other words, while trying to make them greener, the manufacturer made them even more of a threat to the environment than other types of plastic.
“When you start adding all of that [additives], when it becomes waste, they [the additives] become the enemy of the environment. As consumers we need to think of the use of plastic,” added McGlade.
A solution would be to reduce the manufacturing and usage of all types of plastics, and exchange them for truly biodegradable products, such as the recently invented six-pack ring made from barley and wheat.
Image Source: Telegraph.co.uk