Microplastics Release Greenhouse Gases

  • Author: Marek Czykanski
  • Published: 04 August 2018
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA
  • Source / Publisher: PlosOne/Public Library of Science
thumbnail image: Microplastics Release Greenhouse Gases

Sarah-Jeanne Royer, David M. Karl, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, USA, and colleagues have discovered that the degradation of plastic to microplastics under the influence of sunlight releases greenhouse gases such as methane. The scientists studied different types of plastics, e.g., polycarbonate, acrylic, and polyethylene (PE). All of these materials release the greenhouse gases ethylene and methane when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. Polyethylene, the most widely used plastic by far, proved to be the most productive emitter of both greenhouse gases.


In addition, the researchers studied what happens when irradiating beads of LDPE (a special form of polyethylene) over a period of 212 days. They found that the longer the plastic particles were exposed to sunlight, the more greenhouse gases they produced. Emission rates continued to increase over time.


This effect is probably due to the progressive disintegration of the plastic. Cracks and pits in the material increase the surface area on which the sun can exert its effect. Once the decay of the plastic has begun, the material emits gases even in the dark. According to the researchers, considering the large amounts and long lifetimes of plastic in the environment, the influence of plastics on the global CH4 and C2H4 concentrations should be investigated further.


 

Article Views: 4888

Sign in Area

Please sign in below

Additional Sign In options

Please note that to comment on an article you must be registered and logged in.
Registration is for free, you may already be registered to receive, e.g., the newsletter. When you register on this website, please ensure you view our terms and conditions. All comments are subject to moderation.

Article Comments - To add a comment please sign in

Bookmark and Share

If you would like to reuse any content, in print or online, from ChemistryViews.org, please contact us first for permission. more


CONNECT:

ChemistryViews.org on Facebook

ChemistryViews.org on Twitter ChemistryViews.org on YouTube ChemistryViews.org on LinkedIn Sign up for our free newsletter


A product of ChemPubSoc Europe (16 European Chemical Societies)and Wiley-VCH