The United Nation’s (UN’S) top environmental scientists designed a research to understand the effects of biodegradable plastics in the environment. Researchers concluded these type of plastics are just as harmful to differentent habitats with common plastic products.

Plastic pollution has been a humankind problem since the last few decades. Thus leaving accumulation of different plastic products in natural environments. Therefore affecting wildlife and its habitats.

Since plastic is a cheap material to produce and tends to be durable, industrialization has made the product a common object in human life. Since the product is not marketed as reusable, large quantities of plastic bags, bottles and recipients end up in the oceans every day.

About 20 percent of the plastic in the oceans comes from ships or offshore platform
About 20 percent of the plastic in the oceans comes from ships or offshore platforms; the rest is blown, washed off the land or intentionally dumped. Image Credit: West Coast Oceans

Thousands of marine animals have been affected by plastic pollution, since the chemicals affect their environment. What’s more, most of the animals can get tangled and killed with the product.

In the last decade a great amount of ‘greenpeace’ campaigns have been made in developed countries. Reducing the usage of common plastic bags and switching to recycled bags or biodegradable bags is their main target. Which are considered a more environmentally-friendly option when choosing plastic.

But a team of the UN’s most recognized environmental scientists has proven that biodegradable plastic bags and recipients are just as harmful as common plastic to marine habitats.

Biodegradable plastic is in fact harmful for marine life

A 179 page report was issued by UN’s environmental scientists to discuss the effects of biodegradable plastic in this year’s United Nations Environment Assembly.  The assembly started back in 2014 and took place on Monday 23 in Nairobi Kenya.

The investigation assures that plastic debris or litter are currently everywhere in the world’s ocean. And despite the invention of biodegradable plastic, the effects on wildlife are still occurring in the same amount or more.

Biodegradable products had been marketed as a greener option for buyers, since the plastic lasts less and it’s able to degradate in a more rapid way. Yet the study has proven the plastic can degradate easier, when in high temperatures that allow this to happend.

According to the study, the conditions that requires biodegradable plastic to be eliminated from an environment is to have really high temperatures or industrial components. Neither of which are found on the world’s ocean.

“As for many pollutants, plastic waste is a trans-boundary, complex, social, economic and environmental problem with few easy solutions. Plastic litter in the ocean can be considered a ‘common concern of humankind,” read the investigation made by United Nations environmental research team.

According to Jacqueline McGlade, the chief scientists of the investigation and the UN’s environment program, biodegradable plastic has a good intention on the environment and marine life habitats but it has a wrong approach.

The investigation states that for this type of plastic to degrade it will take at least temperatures of 50c to melt down and disappear. This conditions are not found on the ocean which makes it more likely for a dolphin or a fish to die from plastic choking.

Plastic products are also incapable of floating which sends the product to the bottom of the ocean and affects millions of marine animals.

On this year’s United Nations Environment Assembly will gather its 170 members for a meeting that will explain and hopes to pass a new law on microplastics. The meeting will be hold sometime next week since thousands of plastic products have been found in remote locations.

An estimate on plastic production made by the United Nation’s assures that plastic industrialization and production grew to four percent in 2014. The plastic industrialization is responsible for about around eight million tons of plastic produced every day.

The team of researches urges outside societies especially in undeveloped countries to implement recycling activities and culture. This, in order  to create a wider understanding on the effects and causes of this material in the world’s ocean environment.

“The is a moral argument that we should not allow the ocean to become further polluted with plastic waste and that marine littering should be considered a common concern of humankind” says the published report.

It is yet to be seen the responses and arguments to the U.N’s reports on this year’s environmental conservatory.

Plastic pollution causes and effects

Marine pollution rubbish trash garbage of plastic bags floating on ocean surface
Marine pollution rubbish trash garbage of plastic bags floating on ocean surface. Image Credit: Ocean Crusaders

Plastic and similar products are based on petroleum materials that don’t decompose in a rapid way like organic materials. Including food residues, wood and natural components do, given the fact that they can be degraded by bacteria.

This case doesn’t occur in plastic products, since bacterias are not able to biodegrade this type of material the accumulation of the product in the world begins.

Many of the plastic used in a day-to-day basis are discharged in the ocean. products such as: plastic bottles, recipients, bags, etc can cause toxic chemicals not only in animals but in humans as well.

According to declarations, in the United Kingdom around five million of plastics are being consumed every year. And only a twenty four percent is using recycling systems. The rest of the used plastic ends up in rural areas or in the ocean.

The effects of plastic degradation in the environment can affect in different ways. For example, in the land the chemicals in the plastic can seep into groundwater causing harms to species that feed upon that water.

In the ocean is where the biggest amounts of plastics are found and in the process of degradation the chemical compounds of the product such as polystyrene affect marine habitats.

Solutions for plastic pollution

Nowadays green solutions are being generalized into common societies and daily habits. But to reduce plastic pollution in the world, many measures need to be made. Some of the advices for this problem include:

  1. Reusable versions of plastic products
  2. Stop buying water and carry a personal bottle
  3. Consume more home-cooked products, to avoid buying disposable food recipients
  4. Purchase second hand items
  5. Recycling

Source: UNEP