Mar 31, 2015 09:41 AM EDT
For years we've been told that plastics harm the environment and that recycling was the best way to prevent unnecessary damage to the world we live in. We've also been told that adding certain ingredients to plastic would make it biodegradable and much more safe for disposal in landfills and other traditional methods.
A new study from Michigan State University suggests that the additives in biodegradable plastic do not work as the manufacturers had suggested they did. The team performing the study used several methods to test whether the additives really aided in the plastic being broken down. According to Phys.org they employed methods that mimicked the use of a landfill, composting, and simply burying the plastic.
The results of the tests were definitive in that the team found that plastics labeled as biodegradable did not seem to break down any faster than those which did not contain the additives. Rafael Auras, MSU professor and a lead investigator on the team, said, "There was no difference between the plastics mixed with the additives we tested and the ones without."
A recent study in Arizona discovered that even after years of being buried underground, items like chicken bones, grass, and carrots seemed to remain intact. It stands to reason that if natural items take a long time to break down in soil, then plastics and other synthetic materials would take even longer.
In 2012, NBC News reported on the plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean. The area known as "the Great Pacific Garbage Patch" is a place the size of Texas that is covered in millions of pieces of floating garbage. Most of this is plastic that has been carried by the ocean currents until it comes to rest in this cesspool.
Scientists have discovered that the addition of all this plastic to the marine environment has altered the way animals and plants survived in the area. One particular species of sea skaters has increased the number of eggs laid in the area, which has changed the balance of the ecosystem.
Human waste is damaging the environment, whether we want to admit it or not. However, recycling can drastically reduce the damage we do. Biodegradable plastics appear to be a myth used to market products to an environmentally conscious society. Instead of waiting for the large corporations to save the world with a new product, we should all take the time to do our part on a local level and recycle as much as possible.
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