Menu

Plastics Emit Greenhouse Gases as They Degrade

The materials are a previously unaccounted-for source of methane and ethylene, researchers find.

Aug 2, 2018
Shawna Williams

ABOVE: ISTOCK, TONYOQUIAS

Need another reason to ditch straws? A study published yesterday (August 1) in PLOS ONE reports that plastics—ranging from construction materials to plastic bags—release the greenhouse gases methane and ethylene after being exposed to sunlight and beginning to degrade. 

“Our results show that plastics represent a heretofore unrecognized source of climate-relevant trace gases that are expected to increase as more plastic is produced and accumulated in the environment,” the study authors write in their paper.

The researchers, all based at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, tested the emissions of seven types of plastics as they degraded: polyethylene terephthalate, polycarbonate, high-density polyethylene and low-density polyethylene (LDPE), acrylic, polypropylene, and polystyrene. All gave off methane and ethylene in the days after being exposed to sunlight, they found, but polyethylene, which is used to make plastic bags, was the worst offender.

See “Plastic Pollutants Pervade Water and Land

Jennifer Provencher, a plastic pollution researcher at Acadia University in Canada who was not involved in the work, tells Reuters that the results pointed to “another piece of evidence suggesting that losing plastic to the environment is not good.”

The authors note that plastics degradation has not been accounted for in climate change research. “Based on the rates measured in this study and the amount of plastic produced worldwide CH4 [methane] production by plastics is likely to be an insignificant component of the global CH4 budget,” they write. “However, for the other hydrocarbon gases with much lower global emissions to the atmosphere compared to CH4, the production from the plastics might have more environmental and global relevance.”

See “Life Scientists Cut Down on Plastic Waste

September 2018

The Muscle Issue

The dynamic tissue reveals its secrets

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

StemExpress LeukopakâNow Available in Frozen Format

StemExpress LeukopakâNow Available in Frozen Format

StemExpress, a Folsom, California based leading supplier of human biospecimens, announces the release of frozen Peripheral Blood Leukopaks. Leukopaks provide an enriched source of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) with low granulocyte and red blood cells that can be used in a variety of downstream cell-based applications.

New Antifade Mounting Media from Vector Laboratories Enhances Immunofluorescence Applications

New Antifade Mounting Media from Vector Laboratories Enhances Immunofluorescence Applications

Vector Laboratories, a leader in the development and manufacture of labeling and detection reagents for biomedical research, introduces VECTASHIELD® Vibrance™ – antifade mounting media that delivers significant improvements to the immunofluorescence workflow.

Best Practices for Sample Preparation and Lipid Extraction from Various Samples

Best Practices for Sample Preparation and Lipid Extraction from Various Samples

Download this white paper from Bertin Technologies to learn how to extract and analyze lipid samples from various models!

Bio-Rad Launches CHT Ceramic Hydroxyapatite XT Media and Nuvia HP-Q Resin for Process Protein Purification

Bio-Rad Launches CHT Ceramic Hydroxyapatite XT Media and Nuvia HP-Q Resin for Process Protein Purification

Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE: BIO and BIOb), a global leader of life science research and clinical diagnostic products, today announced the launch of two new chromatography media for process protein purification: CHT Ceramic Hydroxyapatite XT Media and Nuvia HP-Q Resin.