Infographics strive to give us a sense of how long plastic goods will last in the environment. But is this information reliable?
Many of us have seen informational posters at parks or aquariums specifying how long plastics bags, bottles, and other products last in the environment. They’re a good reminder to not litter, but where does the information on the lifetime expectancy of plastic goods come from, and how reliable is it?
It turns out, getting a true read on how long it takes for plastic to break down in the environment is tricky business, says Collin Ward, a marine chemist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and member of the its Microplastics Catalyst Program, a long-term research program on plastics in the ocean.
“Plastics are everywhere, but one of the most pressing questions is how long plastics last in the environment,” he says. “The environmental and human health risks associated with something that lasts one year in the environment, versus the same thing that lasts 500 years, are completely different.”
Continue reading at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Image via Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution