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Study concludes that plastic decomposes in oceans

Scientists with the American Chemical Society (ACS) have reported that plastics decompose surprisingly quick...


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August 31, 2009 by Canadian Plastics

Scientists with the American Chemical Society (ACS) have reported that plastics decompose surprisingly quickly in ocean water, instead of being virtually indestructible, as critics have charged.

The ACS also noted that the decomposition process can release potentially toxic substances into the water.

“Plastics in daily use are generally assumed to be quite stable,” Katsuhiko Saido, a chemist at Nihon University, Chiba, Japan, said in a ACS statement. “We found that plastic in the ocean actually decomposes as it is exposed to the rain and sun and other environmental conditions, giving rise to yet another source of global contamination that will continue into the future.”

Saido said that polystyrene begins to decompose within one year, releasing components that are detectable in the parts-per-million range. Those chemicals also decompose in the open water and inside marine life. However, the volume of plastics in the ocean is increasing, so that decomposition products remain a potential problem.

Prior to the report findings, Saido continued, scientists always believed that plastics in the oceans were unsightly, but a hazard mainly to marine animals that eat or become ensnared in plastic objects.

The complete report can be found at this link.

Washington, D.C.-based ACS is a congressionally chartered independent membership organization representing professionals at all degree levels and in all fields of chemistry and sciences that involve chemistry.