What is the impact of biodegradable plastics in the oceans? – In 1906, synthetic plastic made its debut, leading to a revolution in the use of materials, thanks to its cheapness and versatility. However, its durability, which makes it so valuable, becomes a problem when it reaches the end of its useful life, polluting the oceans. In response, biodegradable plastics have been developed to retain the convenience of traditional plastics, but with the ability to degrade safely. But how safe are these alternatives for marine ecosystems?
With global production of biodegradable plastics steadily increasing, from 1.5 million tonnes in 2023 to nearly 5.3 million in 2028, understanding the environmental impact of such materials is crucial. In this context, the Plymouth Marine Laboratory has launched a 12-week study in its Mesocosm, a controlled environment that closely simulates marine conditions. The aim is to investigate the impact of biodegradable plastic on marine ecosystems and to understand what happens to this material once in the ocean.
Plymouth Marine Laboratory, University of Plymouth and University of Bath
The project, a collaboration between Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the University of Plymouth and the University of Bath, is funded by a grant from the NERC Highlight Topic. Dr Rachel Coppock, supervisor of the experiment, points out that the understanding of the impacts of biodegradable plastic is still at an early stage. Although it may reduce the longevity of plastic pollution, additives may leak out during degradation, with unknown impacts on fauna and ecosystems. The analysis aims to understand the fate of plastic in the marine system.
With the study completed in December, researchers will now evaluate the results. The hypothesis is that plastic particles, both biodegradable and conventional, will be present in all compartments of the system, including sediment and animals. Final results will be shared in the future. Stay tuned for updates on this crucial study that will help inform the future of biodegradable plastic use.
What is the impact of biodegradable plastic in the oceans?