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Biodegradable Plastics Are Not the Answer to Reducing Marine Litter, Says UN

November 17, 2015

Biodegradable Plastics Are Not the Answer to Reducing Marine Litter, Says UN

Washington D.C., 17 November 2015 - Widespread adoption of products labelled 'biodegradable' will not significantly decrease the volume of plastic entering the ocean or the physical and chemical risks that plastics pose to marine environment, concluded a UN report released today.

The report, "Biodegradable Plastics and Marine Litter. Misconceptions, Concerns and Impacts on Marine Environments", finds that complete biodegradation of plastics occurs in conditions that are rarely, if ever, met in marine environments, with some polymers requiring industrial composters and prolonged temperatures of above 50°C to disintegrate. There is also limited evidence suggesting that labelling products as 'biodegradable' increases the public's inclination to litter.

The report was launched to mark the 20th anniversary of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA), an intergovernmental mechanism hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, "Recent estimates from UNEP have shown as much as 20 million tonnes of plastic end up in the world's oceans each year. Once in the ocean, plastic does not go away, but breaks down into microplastic particles. This report shows there are no quick fixes, and a more responsible approach to managing the lifecycle of plastics will be needed to reduce their impacts on our oceans and ecosystems."

Read more at UNEP NEWS CENTRE.

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