Plastic pollution is a global problem. The majority of plastic winds up in landfills where it remains indefinitely.
No one exactly knows how long plastic takes to break down, but it is believed to take hundreds or even thousands of years. It is not just the accumulation of plastics that harms the environment—it is also the fragments and toxins released during photo-decomposition that pollute our soil and water.
Some plastics are designed to degrade quickly, such as Oxo-Degradables and while they may become less noticeable, they are still present in the environment. For example, in ocean environments, plastic fragments are taken in by filter-feeding organisms. When tiny plankton ingest plastic, animals up the food chain can bioaccumulate larger quantities.
So while some plastic may be designed to degrade quickly, it is still present in the environment. Floating plastic waste that can survive thousands of years in water can serve as a transportation device for invasive species that disrupt habitats.
* Biodegradation rates of EcoPure®-treated plastic materials measured according to the ASTM D5511 test method. Tests are generally conducted using 20% to 30% solids content; solids content in naturally wetter landfills range from 55% to 65%, while the driest landfills may reach 93%. Actual biodegradation rates will vary in biologically-active landfills according to the type of plastic used, the product configuration, and the solid content, temperature and moisture levels of the landfill.