« New Industry Coalition Launches Plastic Bag Recycling Program | Main | Buying Into the Green Movement »

July 06, 2007

Will My Plastic Bag Still Be Here in 2507?

070627_exp_womanbagstn Slate 06.27.07

News reports have cited a statistic that the ubiquitous receptacles take 500 years to break down in landfills. How do we know?

Actually, we don't. Plastic bags have only been around for about 50 years, so there's no firsthand evidence of their decomposition rate.

So, where does the 500-year statistic come from? Although standard polyethylene bags don't biodegrade, they do photodegrade. When exposed to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight, polyethylene's polymer chains become brittle and start to crack. This suggests that plastic bags will eventually fragment into microscopic granules. As of yet, however, scientists aren't sure how many centuries it takes for the sun to work its magic. That's why certain news sources cite a 500-year estimate while others prefer a more conservative 1,000-year lifespan. According to some plastics experts, all these figures are just another way of saying "a really, really long time."

Link: Will My Plastic Bag Still Be Here in 2507?

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c670d53ef00e0098e4cc88833

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Will My Plastic Bag Still Be Here in 2507?:

Comments

The comments to this entry are closed.