Microplastics formation and plastic bags: the health of the environment in danger



by LORENZO CIOTTI

Microplastics formation and plastic bags: the health of the environment in danger

Microplastics come from different sources: they are found massively in products such as cosmetics, products for personal hygiene and for the home, in building materials, in industries and in agriculture. Both categories of microplastics (primary and secondary) have been found to persist in the environment in large quantities, especially in marine and aquatic ecosystems.

This is because plastic deforms but does not break for many years, it can be ingested and accumulated in the body and tissues of many organisms. The entire cycle and movement of microplastics in the environment has not yet been studied in depth, especially due to the difficulty of analyzing a mixture of various types of more or less inert plastics.

The study: Microplastics formation based on degradation characteristics of beached plastic bags, published on the Marine pollution bulletin, explained: "Environmental pollution from plastic bags is a significant issue in the global environment.

Plastic bags can be transferred by the wind and ocean currents everywhere in the three dimensions and be fragmented into small particles, termed film-shaped microplastics. The purpose of this study is to provide insights on the degradation of beached plastic bags.

Monitoring and sampling were performed to determine plastic bag fragmentation and the possible mechanisms. On selected samples, various spectroscopic techniques and microscopy were used. Before the imposition of the "green" plastic bag fee in Greece, field monitoring suggested that the majority of the coastal plastic bags were fragmented whereas after the "green" fee, less fragmented bags were observed.

Evidence of three degradation mechanisms were observed in this study. For oxodegra dable plastic bags, degradation takes place for the starch additives and the polymer part stays in the environment as microplastic particles.

For thin light density polyethylene plastic bags, mechanical fragmentation takes place in the environment creating microplastics before significant chemical alterations in functional groups were observed and once chemical alteration (oxidation) is observed, fragmentation (of HC or CC bonds) is also taking place.

Thus, regulating thin plastic bags usage removes problems related to plastic bags but also to film-shaped microplastics. "