Only 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled, most of it ending up in landfills where it can take between 450-1000 years to decompose. Since plastic is resistant to bacteria, enzymes, oxidation and water exposure, it is hard to get plastic to biodegrade at all. The only real way that plastic is able to break down is through the process of photodegradation; a type of decomposition that alters a substance via photons, especially those found in the wavelengths of the sun’s rays. UV light has the capability to incorporate oxygen molecules into plastic through a process known as oxidation, and as oxygen begins to repeatedly blend with the polymers in plastic, it causes it to become weaker and more fragile (Staff, 2015). When plastic is exposed to sunlight, it attacks and breaks the bonds that hold the molecular chains together and eventually turns it into little pieces called microplastics. This method, like the many others that attempt to break down plastic, can be seen as ineffective and harmful. The extreme amounts of buried plastic at landfills may never come into contact with the sun and even when the sunrays do successfully diminish the plastic into small pieces, it makes it easier for them to be swept away and deposited into the ocean.
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