General Question

JoshLake's avatar

Can plastic ever completely biodegrade?

Asked by JoshLake (73points) June 19th, 2009

I live in Mexico on the coast and tons of plastic and other trash washes up on to the beach everyday from the ocean currents. The currents bring trash in from South America, Central America, and the Caribbean Islands. I was wondering if there are any chance that the plastic, left on the beaches, will ever completely biodegrade.

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8 Answers

arnbev959's avatar

Eventually it will, but likely not until millions of years after the human race has gone extinct.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@petethepothead Not quite, the average plastic item will take 100,000 years I think. Still far too long to be environmentally ethical though.

killertofu's avatar

10 – 750 years depending on product. Bags are 10 – 20 where as plastic bottles are ~450

ragingloli's avatar

They invented bacteria that eat plastic, iirc. So if they use them, it would be gone quite quickly.
or was it oil?

rooeytoo's avatar

I recently watched a documentary on plastic refuse in the ocean and it was truly unbelievable how much there was. The ship was as far from land as it could get and put out a bag to drag behind. When they pulled it out it was full of huge pieces and absolutely soupy from minute particles. I understood that it never completely biodegrades. We are probably eating that when we eat fish, no wonder cancers are increasing.

I don’t buy anything except milk in plastic bottles anymore and if I could find it in glass or cardboard, I would stop. buying that in plastic as well.

rexpresso's avatar

I read about a modified bacteria that eats plastic at a much higher rate. As far as I understood, the technique is being perfected, they don’t want to let such a hungry creature into the wild so fast. But eventually I am sure there will be a solution. There has to :-)

emilyrose's avatar

Plastic photodegrades, which means it just keeps breaking up into tinier and tinier pieces. Check out for some scary but useful information.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

My answer was obviously wrong, maybe exaggerated thanks to the militant environmentalists who like to blow things out of proportion, maybe because my memory of that sort of thing is fading. Is there any way to remove my answer?

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