Environmental Deterioration of Biodegradable, Oxo-biodegradable, Compostable, and Conventional Plastic Carrier Bags in the Sea, Soil, and Open-Air Over a 3-Year Period
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There is clear evidence that discarded single-use carrier bags are accumulating in the environment. As a result, various plastic formulations have been developed which state they deteriorate faster and/or have fewer impacts on the environment because their persistence is shorter. This study examined biodegradable, oxo-biodegradable, compostable, and high-density polyethylene (i.e., a conventional plastic carrier bag) materials over a 3 year period. These materials were exposed in three natural environments; open-air, buried in soil, and submersed in seawater, as well as in controlled laboratory conditions. In the marine environment, the compostable bag completely disappeared within 3 months. However, the same compostable bag type was still present in the soil environment after 27 months but could no longer hold weight without tearing. After 9 months exposure in the open-air, all bag materials had disintegrated into fragments. Collectively, our results showed that none of the bags could be relied upon to show any substantial deterioration over a 3 year period in all of the environments. It is therefore not clear that the oxo-biodegradable or biodegradable formulations provide sufficiently advanced rates of deterioration to be advantageous in the context of reducing marine litter, compared to conventional bags.
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