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Plastic Waste in the Ocean and Possible Breakdown by Bacteria

Linda Crampton is a science writer who is interested in environmental issues. She is very concerned about the harmful effects of pollution.

Plastic eggs containing jelly beans are fun for children but bad for the environment.

Plastic eggs containing jelly beans are fun for children but bad for the environment.

An Escalating Problem

Plastic use is increasing rapidly in many parts of the world today and is changing human lives. Plastics are certainly useful, but the tendency of many people to throw them away when they're no longer needed is creating a major pollution problem. They break down very slowly and may release toxic substances as they degrade. Some of the discarded items enter the ocean, where they harm and kill marine animals.

Plastic in the ocean exists not only as chunks and pieces but also as microplastic. Microplastic fragments are less than five millimeters long. The fragments form as larger pieces of plastic in seawater slowly degrade. They are also released into the sewage system when clothing made of plastic fibres, such as polyester and acrylic, is washed. Microplastic is widespread in the ocean and is especially concentrated in the so-called "garbage patches". These are places in the ocean where water currents trap garbage or pollutants in the area.

Bacteria help to decompose many types of waste. According to the present state of our knowledge, though, there don't seem to be many bacteria that can break down plastic. Some bacteria can decompose bioplastics, which are made from plants such as corn. Researchers have discovered that microplastic in the Atlantic Ocean has been colonized by a group of bacteria that may be able to degrade the particles. Other researchers have found a specific species of bacteria that can break down one type of plastic. Despite these discoveries, the problem of removing the material from the ocean is far from being solved.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area of ocean in the North Pacific Gyre. It contains a large amount of microplastic.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area of ocean in the North Pacific Gyre. It contains a large amount of microplastic.

What Is Plastic?

A plastic is a synthetic material made of an organic polymer. The word "organic" means that the molecules making up the material contain carbon atoms. A "polymer" is a long chain of molecules joined together. Most plastics are made of petrochemicals (chemicals produced from petroleum or natural gas).

Plastics usually contain additives to improve them in some way. Examples of these additives include pigments, flame retardants, stabilizers, plasticizers to improve softness and flexibility, and reinforcers to make the material tougher.

Sources of Plastic Waste

The list of plastic items in many people's lives is a long one. A partial list is given below. Sometimes an alternate product can be found with the same function as a plastic item, but not always.

  • storage containers
  • lunch bags and food wrap
  • shopping bags
  • grocery bags
  • drink bottles
  • food packages, such as breads bags, frozen meal containers, yogurt containers, and some milk containers
  • containers for cosmetics, shampoo, and laundry detergents
  • microbeads in cosmetics such as exfoliating facial scrubs and cleansers
  • medication containers
  • utensils and cutlery
  • straws
  • pens
  • buttons
  • toys
  • furniture such as chairs and tables
  • cases for electronic devices and plastic accessories for these devices
  • credit cards, shopping cards, ID cards, and driver's licenses
  • items made of vinyl, nylon, acrylic, polyester, polycarbonate, polyethylene, polypropylene, polybutylene, polystyrene, ABS plastic (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), PLA plastic (polylactic acid), or plastic resins

How Does Plastic Enter the Ocean?

Plastic waste may be deposited in the ocean directly or indirectly. Some is deliberately dropped off ships or offshore platforms or is blown or washed off. Some is tossed into the sea by people on land. The rest is blown off the land or washed off by moving water. Plastic deposited in land fills or casually dropped on the ground may eventually reach the ocean.

Altogether, these methods deposit a significant amount of plastic into the ocean every year. The old idea that the oceans are so vast that anything dropped into them will be diluted and have no effect is no longer valid.

It is estimated that about 80% of marine debris originates as land-based trash and the remaining 20% is attributed to at-sea intentional or accidental disposal or loss of goods and waste.

— EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)

World Oceans Day Statement About Pollution

Plastic Degradation

A commonly held belief is that plastic doesn't break down, apart from the new, biodegradable plastics. This isn't true, however. Regular plastic does break down, but usually very slowly.

Ultraviolet light from the sun breaks some plastics down in as little as a year, while others are thought to need hundreds of years to break down. The light breaks the bonds holding the building blocks (or the monomers) of the polymer chain together.

Although degradation of plastics sounds like a good thing, it may not be so wonderful. Research suggests that when the materials degrade, they don't disappear but become small pieces of microplastic.

Microplastic fragments enter the bodies of animals. The effects of microplastics on living things aren't known for certain, but their presence worries some researchers, especially as their concentration is increasing. The term "plastic soup" is sometimes used for a region in the ocean that is laden with microplastic particles.

Another problem may develop as a result of plastic disintegration. As the material breaks down, it may release the additives that were used to improve its properties. Some of these additives are known to be harmful to living things, including humans.

Some people think that biodegradable plastics can be left in a landfill and will then be broken down by bacteria. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. When they are buried in a landfill, they aren't exposed to enough oxygen, light, and moisture to disintegrate.

One type of biodegradable plastic is the bioplastic family. Bioplastics are derived from living things, such as corn. They must be sent to a commercial composting plant to be decomposed by specific bacteria under specific environmental conditions. If this isn't done, they are as dangerous for the environment as regular plastics.

Waste and Recycling Statistics in the United States

According to the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA, the following statistics apply to municipal solid waste collected in the United States in 2018. (Comparable statistics from more recent years are unavailable at the moment.) The numbers are given in thousands of U.S. tons, and they all apply to plastic items.

  • 35,680: amount of plastic waste that was generated
  • 3,090: amount of recycled waste (8.7% of the quantity that was generated)
  • 5,620: amount of combusted waste with energy recovery
  • 26,970: the amount that entered landfills
  • An unknown amount of waste was composted

As the table in the first reference at the end of this article shows, the amount of plastic waste generated each year in the United States is still increasing. Our love of plastic is creating a major problem.

Effects of Plastic on Marine Animals

Plastic pollution can have serious consequences for ocean life. Large pieces of the material may be mistaken for prey and eaten. Sea turtles and whales may mistake a billowing plastic bag for a squid, for example. The bag may block the animal's airway, causing suffocation, or block the stomach, leading to starvation. In addition, it may prevent food absorption though the intestinal wall or leach toxic substances, poisoning the animal.

In 2013, a dead sperm whale washed up on a Spanish beach with over 37 pounds of plastic debris in its stomach. The material existed in the form of 59 different items and included thick plastic sheets, bags, rope, hosepipe, two flower pots, and a plastic spray canister. The animal is believed to have died from starvation.

The items in the whale's stomach came from a huge greenhouse industry nearby. The greenhouses occupy almost 99,000 acres and can be seen in satellite views of Earth. Much of the plastic waste produced by the industry is treated in special centers, but a significant amount escapes into the ocean.

Unfortunately, the sperm whale's fate was not unique. Dead whales containing plastic in their digestive tract are still being discovered. In 2019, a curvier beaked whale in the Philippines was found to have 88 pounds of plastic inside its body.

Another problem that develops from plastic waste is that some animals become trapped in the six-pack rings used to carry canned drinks. The rings may cause the animal to suffocate or starve. They may also cause an infection if they injure the animal's skin. Yet another problem that may arise is that plastic debris may cover and kill seaweeds or coral. This may indirectly harm the creatures that depend on the seaweeds or coral for survival.

In 2013, a dead sperm whale was found in Spain with over 37 pounds of plastic and 59 plastic items in its stomach.

In 2013, a dead sperm whale was found in Spain with over 37 pounds of plastic and 59 plastic items in its stomach.

Pellets or Nurdles

One of the most common forms of visible plastic in the ocean and on beaches is the nurdle. Nurdles are small pellets of plastic that are used to make larger objects. Birds and aquatic animals may eat these, mistaking them for fish eggs. Like larger pieces of plastic, nurdles can cause suffocation, starvation, or poisoning. Nurdles may contain toxic substances added during their formation and may also absorb toxins from their environment.

Nurdles are sometimes called "mermaid tears". They enter the marine environment when they are spilled during their production or transport. Unfortunately, they mix with the sand on beaches, making it very hard to remove them.

The Ocean Garbage Patches


Microplastics are fragments of plastic that are less than 5 mm in length or diameter. They are made from the breakdown of larger pieces of plastic. They're also shed from clothing made from synthetic fibers as the clothing is washed in a washing machine. The microbeads in cosmetics and some industrial products are usually microplastics, too.

Plastic pollution combined with ocean circulation patterns is responsible for the creation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area in the Pacific Ocean with an unusually high microplastic concentration. Microplastic is found far beyond the garbage patch, however. As scientists do tests in different parts of the world, they are discovering that it has a very widepread distribution.

It's impossible to remove microplastics from sea water. Their particles are too small, too numerous, and too widespread. While larger pieces of plastic and some of the substances leached from them are known to be harmful, the effects of microplastics are not so clear. Researchers know that the particles are entering the bodies of marine animals and being stored there. They may leach toxic substances, just like larger pieces of the material, but this has yet to be confirmed.

Turtles are especially susceptible to damage by plastic pollution in the ocean. This is a green turtle.

Turtles are especially susceptible to damage by plastic pollution in the ocean. This is a green turtle.

Leached Toxins from Plastic

Two examples of potential toxins leached from plastic are bisphenol A (or BPA) and chemicals known as phthalates. They are useful substances. Concerns about their safety exist, however, especially when they reach a specific concentration. The situation with respect to the second type of chemical is particularly complex because multiple examples of phthalates exist. In some cases, the chemicals have been found to harm lab animals. This may or may not mean that they can hurt us.

Bisphenol A

Bisphenol A is used in the manufacture of clear polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. It's an endocrine disruptor, or a substance that interferes with the action of hormones. The view of the NIH (National Institutes of Health) is that at current exposure levels BPA is not harmful for adult humans, but there is "some concern" about the exposure of fetuses, infants, and children to the chemical. BPA is dangerous for at least some marine animals.


Phthalates are added to polyvinyl chloride to increase its softness and are also added to cosmetics. They are believed to be endocrine disruptors in humans and animals. Some members of the family seem to be more dangerous than others. A phthalate named diethylhexyl phthalate or DEHP is thought to be a carcinogen (cancer causer) in humans. As is the case with BPA, research is ongoing.

PLA Plastic

One type of bioplastic is polylactic acid, or PLA. PLA is made from corn starch in North America but is also produced from tapioca roots and sugarcane.

Two environmentally friendly ways to get rid of unwanted PLA plastic exist. One method is to use bacteria to break the material down into carbon dioxide and water. The bacteria are added to the plastic at a high temperature in a commercial composting facility. The decomposition process generally takes three to six months.

The other way to deal with unwanted PLA plastic is to melt it and then pass it through an extruder, which will form a new shape from the material. Other types of plastic can also be recycled in this way. Some extruders are cheap enough for many consumers to buy. This is good because of the growing popularity and affordability of 3D printers. Consumer-level 3D printers produce solid objects from hot, melted plastic, so it's important that a good way to deal with unwanted objects is available.

Making Plastic From Corn

Possible Degradation by Bacteria in Nature

In June 2011, scientists from the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, reported that they had collected bits of microplastic from the North Atlantic Ocean and found that they had bacteria on their surface. The bacterial community in the "plastisphere" habitat was different from the community in the surrounding water.

The microplastic fragments had tiny pits on their surface. The pits matched the shape of the bacteria. In addition, the researchers identified plastisphere bacteria that could break down hydrocarbons, which are found in plastics. These observations led the scientists to believe that the bacteria were degrading the microplastic. It's unknown whether the bacteria in the plastisphere convert plastics into harmless chemicals or instead release toxins from the material as they degrade it (if in fact they do degrade it). The bacteria may be beneficial, harmful, or both at the same time.

Other bacteria have been found to break down plastic in lab experiments, although as in the above example it's unknown how significant this is in natural environments. It's possible that plastic-degrading bacteria may one day be useful to us. We are in no way ready to release the bacteria into the ocean and may not be so for a long time, however. Though the research is continuing and may eventually be useful, we need solutions to the plastic problem now.

A Bacterium That Can Live on PET

In 2016, researchers at Kyoto University in Japan announced that they had found a bacterium that can live on a plastic called PET, or polyethylene teraphthalate. PET is used to make bottles and clothing. The researchers have named the bacterium Ideonella sakaiensis. When they placed the bacterium in a container containing pieces of PET and a few other nutrients, the plastic disappeared within a few weeks.

The scientists have made another potentially important discovery. They have identified the enzyme that the bacterium uses to break down PET and have found the DNA sequence in the microbe that codes for the enzyme. In addition, they have been able to make the enzyme. This might lead to a new way to remove one type of plastic waste.

Since the monomers of a plastic contain carbon, they should in theory be a good food source for bacteria. The problem is that most bacteria don't have suitable enzymes to break a plastic up into its constituent monomers. The discovery of one that does is exciting.

How to Make a Corn Bioplastic at Home

A Plastic Waste Poll

Reducing the Use of Plastic

Plastic is so ubiquitous in most people's lives that it may be hard to avoid it. There are many websites that either help people lead plastic-free lives or help them to greatly reduce their use of the material. If a person searches for "living plastic free" on the Internet, they'll find page after page of useful links.

A plastic-free lifestyle does require some creative thinking. In some cases the lifestyle is too inconvenient or too expensive for a family or individual to follow rigidly. Sometimes it simply isn't possible to avoid plastic. After all, a person can't refuse to accept a needed medication just because it's in a plastic container.

The best solution for the problem is to encourage people to reduce their use of the material significantly and to find better ways to either recycle their plastic or break it down. Lobbying companies to find alternatives for plastic containers or products may be helpful, but not if the alternate product is more expensive.

Researchers and inventors are investigating new types of biodegradable plastics. These may be very helpful in the future, as long as they have other necessary properties (such as strength) in addition to being biodegradable.

We definitely need to change the way in which we deal with plastic. We are harming ocean life with our debris. Since humans eat marine animals such as fish, we may also be harming ourselves.


  • Plastic waste and recycling data from the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Toxicological threats of plastic from the EPA
  • Bisphenol A information from the NIH
  • Information about phthalates from the HIH
  • Chemical factsheets (including ones about chemicals in plastic) from the CDC National Biomonitoring Program
  • Information about the garbage patches from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
  • A report about a dead sperm whale full of plastic from The Guardian
  • A report about another plastic-filled whale from National Geographic
  • Marine microbes digest plastic from the Nature journal
  • A bacterium that digests plastic from a University of Hull lecturer via The Conversation

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2013 Linda Crampton


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 20, 2017:

Hi, Angel. It is a sad reality. I hope the situation changes very soon. Thank you for commenting.

Angel Guzman from Joliet, Illinois on July 20, 2017:

A truly eye opening experience sad reality reading this. I knew but not to this depth.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 27, 2014:

Hi, Heidi. I appreciate your comment and the votes! The use of plastics must be a serious problem in your industry. It's great that you are trying to improve the situation.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on June 27, 2014:

Being in the promotional products industry, you can imagine that plastic concerns are concerns for me, too. That's why I always recommend that customers seriously consider whether they really need to buy any promotional item and reduce their purchase to the smallest quantity needed. Excellent review of the plastics situation! Voted up and interesting!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 27, 2014:

Hi, Nadine. Thank you for the comment and the share! Like you, I avoid or recycle plastic, but you are so right - there need to be fewer plastic items on sale!

Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on June 27, 2014:

Great hub in this very worrying situation. It's hard-breaking when you see the damage it does to birds alone. We take our own material bags to the shops. We aim for items that are packaged in glass, and yes we recycle plastic every 2 weeks, but its the retail stores and packaging companies that need to find better ways away from using plastic, or we as consumers must stop buying those products altogether. I will share this hub. Thanks

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 27, 2014:

Thank you so much for the kind comment, the votes and the shares, Mary! When I was a child milk was routinely sold in glass bottles. Now milk in bottles seems to be sold only by specialist dairies, at least where I live. Edible wrapping for food is an excellent idea. We definitely need to find some creative ways to reduce our use of plastic!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on June 27, 2014:

I applaud you for all the research you did on this Hub! I remember when items were purchased in glass. I try to stay away from plastics as much as possible.

Another interesting concept I think is the idea of foods made with an edible wrapping. I wrote a Hub about that. That would eliminate plastic covering for a lot of foods.

One of my pet peeves is all the unnecessary wrapping that is used on everyday purchases.

Voted UP,etc. and shared. Will also share on Google+

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 27, 2014:

I agree, Artois52! Using less packaging on some items would be a great step forward. Thank you very much got the comment.

Artois52 from England on June 27, 2014:

Great hub. I think more should be done to discourage manufacturers using too much packaging generally. They seem to think that more packaging infers a higher quality. A lot of packaging is unnecessary and less of it would make actually getting into some products a lot less annoying as well as being better for the environment!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 26, 2014:

Thank you very much for the comment and the vote, Vellur. I hope that bacteria that can quickly degrade plastic are found, too. We need to reduce plastic waste right now, though, as you suggest!

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on June 26, 2014:

I wish scientists will be able to find bacteria that can easily get rid of plastic waste. Till then I think we should reuse plastic containers as much as we can or use biodegradable plastic. Interesting and informative hub, voted up.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 15, 2013:

Thanks for the comment, DDE. I appreciate your visit.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on November 15, 2013:

Bacteria and Plastic Waste in the Ocean well said such waste can harm the ocean and the precious life that exists, very important information.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 17, 2013:

Hi, Glimmer. Yes, the plastic situation is very disturbing. Some people either don't realize what's happening to the ocean or don't care. Perhaps they think that the ocean is so vast that it doesn't matter what we dump into it, which is no longer the case! Thank you very much for the visit and the comment.

Claudia Mitchell on July 17, 2013:

While this is an incredibly interesting and useful hub, it is also disturbing to me. Take a walk along any beach, river or stream and you'll find plastic trash everywhere. It's quite sad to see and the harm this trash is doing is devastating. Well done hub!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 07, 2013:

I hope you're right, UberGeekGirl, but right now many people don't consider the ways in which humans are harming the oceans and ocean life and aren't changing their damaging behaviors. People's lives with plastic may be just fine, but the changes in the ocean and its life aren't. It's not only our plastic waste that's damaging the ocean, but other factors caused by humans too, such as destructive fishing methods. Perhaps we will eventually reach a crisis point where the state of the oceans affects us so strongly that we are forced to adapt and make widespread changes in the ways in which we treat the oceans.

Michelle Harlow from Calgary on July 07, 2013:

Society adjusted just fine to every other huge change just fine... cars over horses, airplanes over trains, plastic over paper :) We're human, we adapt.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 07, 2013:

Thank you so much for the wonderful support, Deb! I appreciate the votes and the share very much. I've noticed "specialized" trash and recycling containers building up in my community, which is a very good thing. I just hope that the slowly building awareness of the dangers of plastic waste develops fast enough to stop an ecological disaster.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on July 07, 2013:

Very well done, Alicia, which of course, ties in with living a green lifestyle. I have a friend that uses plastic pill bottles for crafts. I picked up some trash at the lake today, as I do many days. The city even put extra trash receptacles, which helps me dispose of this material without having to carry it far. Awesome, up, and sharing. If I knew how to attach this to Life at Boomer Lake, I would do so.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 07, 2013:

Thank you, pinto2011. It's great to hear that you've stopped using plastic! That's a wonderful way to help the environment.

Subhas from New Delhi, India on July 07, 2013:

Hi AliciaC! Thumbs up to you for taking up such an important environment issue. I have stopped using any kind of plastic. I carry cloth bag and different types of containers for my shopping.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 07, 2013:

Thank you very much for the comment, Sue. I appreciate the vote, pin and share, too!

Susan Bailey from South Yorkshire, UK on July 07, 2013:

Voted up, pinned and shared. Highly informative and thought provoking hub Alicia

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 06, 2013:

Thank you for the comment and the vote, Dianna. I have the same approach to plastic as you. I try to avoid it, and when I can't, I recycle it or reuse it in some way.

Dianna Mendez on July 06, 2013:

I do try to avoid plastic, but when I buy it I recyle. Great post on protecting our environment and marine life. Voted up++

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 06, 2013:

Hi, Elias. Thank you for the visit and the comment. Yes, I talk about plastic waste in this hub, but other types of garbage enter the oceans, too. It's a sad situation.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 06, 2013:

Hi, Bill. I'm very glad to hear that other people are concerned about plastic! I appreciate your comment. Thank you for the vote, the share and the pin, too.

Elias Zanetti from Athens, Greece on July 06, 2013:

The amount of plastic and other garbage that end up in the oceans in huge and causes many problems by further polluting the natural environment of marine file and not only. Very interesting and useful hub that contributes to public awareness about plastic waste in the ocean.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on July 06, 2013:

Great Hub Alicia. I thought about doing a hub on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch a while ago but it never materialized. You have done a terrific job with this topic. It really is a shame that a lot of the plastic winds up in the ocean and affects the marine life. This has become a pet peeve of mine, trying to reduce our use of plastic. Excellent research. Voted up, shared and pinned.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 05, 2013:

This sounds like an interesting plan, Martin. Thanks for sharing the information.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on July 05, 2013:

In SF, we are fined heavily for not separating our trash.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 05, 2013:

Thank you very much for the comment and the votes, Pamela! Yes, we do need to find new materials to make the everyday products that we use. Research and development are very important to help us live in harmony with nature.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 05, 2013:

I knew plastic was a problem in the ocean,but I didn't realize to what degree. This is an excellent, very informative hub. It is really a huge problem and we need to find alternative products. People use to just deal with glass and wash everything. They survived and didn't destroy nature doing so. Voted up and awesome.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 05, 2013:

Hi, drbj. Thanks for the comment! I appreciate it. Yes, we must find substitutes for conventional plastics, or at least better ways to deal with plastic. Plastic waste is a serious problem already, and the problem is going to get worse if we don't find a solution now.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on July 05, 2013:

You are so right, Alicia, that our enormous usage of plastic products may be harming not only marine life but ultimately ourselves when we ingest fish, for example. We must find substitutes that are less harmful. Excellent research and exposition, m'dear. Voted Up.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 05, 2013:

Hi, Peg. Thank you very much for the comment, the vote and the share. I'm been thinking back to my childhood since I wrote this hub and realizing how little plastic was in my life. I love the technological advances that have happened in the present. The use of plastic in our modern devices and world is worrying, though, due to the huge amount of plastic waste that is being created.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on July 05, 2013:

Hi Alicia. I'm in that age group that remembers life with little or no plastic. Even the large soda bottles were made of glass and milk came in a waxed cardboard carton. For some time now, I've been concerned about the huge island of garbage and plastic that has invaded our oceans. Our marine wild life is definitely endangered by these careless discards. You've really described the dangers of plastic and its long life span here, to the point, that we all need to curb our consumption whenever possible. Voted up and shared.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 05, 2013:

Thank you very much, Martie! It must be hard for young people to realize that it was once possible to live without plastic! Plastics certainly aren't evil - they are used to make very useful items. It's the way that we treat them that's the problem. I would love the production of biodegradable plastics to replace the manufacture of conventional plastics. Consumer education is important, though. At the moment, "biodegradable" plastics are only biodegradable under certain conditions.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on July 05, 2013:

I remember a time plastic was not available. Containers were made of tin, glass, ceramic, paper, etc. Then came plastic. Now I can't imagine life without plastic. I LOVE the fact that corn can be converted into plastic, and, of course, recycling of plastic is essential. It should not become dangerous waste.

Excellent hub, Alicia. I learn so much from you :)

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 05, 2013:

Hi, Bill. Yes, we depend on plastic in so many ways. This is truly the "plastic age"! Reducing plastic use and recycling are important, but eliminating plastic completely is virtually impossible for most people. Thank you for the comment.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 05, 2013:

Can you imagine life without plastic? All of the things we use on a daily basis that would be gone.....I doubt modern society could adjust, and yet everything you said in this hub is true.

Great facts and research; hopefully this will help in some way.

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