Simulated Sunlight Reveals How 98 Percent of Plastics at Sea Go Missing Each Year

A new study helps to solve the mystery of missing plastic fragments at sea. Scientists selected microplastics prevalently found on the ocean surface and irradiated them with a solar simulator system. They found that simulated sunlight increased the amount of dissolved carbon in the water, making those tiny plastic particles tinier. Direct, experimental proof of the photochemical degradation of marine plastics remains rare. This work provides novel insight into the removal mechanisms and potential lifetimes of a select few microplastics.

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Poisoned by Plastic

Too many of the plastic cups, chip bags, cigarette butts and take-out containers you see littering California’s beaches don’t stay on the sand. An estimated 17.6 billion pounds of plastic make their way into the world’s oceans annually, the equivalent of dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute—and 80 percent of that comes directly from littering on land.

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