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Posted Sat Apr 23 2011: from Nature:
Puzzle persists for 'degradeable' plastics
Eco-friendly plastics disintegrate, but might just linger in the environment. The environmentally friendly version of polythene might not be so friendly after all. Polyethylene is one of the most widely used materials in the world, and the discarded plastic bag has become one of the most potent symbols of human impact on the environment. As worries over the vast scale of waste from this plastic has grown, so has the use of purportedly 'degradable' forms of it... Although it is clear that 'degradable' plastic bags, for example, will fall apart in the environment, the resulting fragments can persist for a long time, and there are no long-term studies on these pieces. A key issue is that products can be described as biodegradable without reference to the timescale it takes them to fully biodegrade.
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'Doc Michael says:
In terms of how long it takes to biodegrade, are we talking Newtonian or relativistic timescapes?
This reminds of the difference between "water-resistant" and "water-proof." Turns out my jacket is the former, since after a rainstorm, I am always wet.

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