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Biodegradable Plastics: A Proven Solution to the Problem of Marine Plastic Waste

A research team has confirmed the decomposition of biodegradable plastics in harsh deep-sea environments amid calls to address harmful marine plastic waste.



biodegradable plastics
Robot arm of the Shinkai 6500 placing samples of biodegradable plastics on the deep sea floor. (Image courtesy of JAMSTEC)

Read the full story on Japan 2 Earth - Biodegradable Plastics: A Proven Solution to the Problem of Marine Plastic Waste

Biodegradable plastics are receiving increasing attention. Conventional plastic, used for the parts, packaging, and containers of various products, is known to end up in the sea only to never decompose. There, it causes adverse effects on the environment. This has sparked the rising importance of transitioning to biodegradable plastics that can be broken down by microorganisms. 

However, concerns remain. The deep sea, where marine plastic waste ends up, is a harsh low-temperature environment with little nutrients. Does this mean that the microorganisms essential for decomposition may be very scarce? What is the reality? A team including researchers from the University of Tokyo is working to confirm the real situation for plastics in the deep sea.

How Plastics Flow into the Ocean

Plastic production for use in products in all industries is reported to be approximately 400 million tons worldwide each year. Reports also show that every year, about 8 million tons are thrown away and end up in the ocean. The great majority are plastics synthesized from petroleum that microorganisms cannot break down.

Plastic waste washed ashore (Image courtesy of NOAA)

The main routes by which plastics flow into the ocean are somewhat understood. For example, plastic shopping bags, food containers, and bottles used by consumers generate massive amounts of waste. Some remain outdoors due to littering or inadequate collection and eventually end up in rivers and flow into the sea. 

Continue reading the full story on Japan 2 Earth to learn more about the potential for biodegradable plastics to contribute to solving the problem of marine plastic waste.

And find more great articles on the environment and the challenges of achieving the SDGs on our affiliated website Japan 2 Earth (J2E), sparking a transition to a sustainable future.


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Juichiro Ito


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