Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Environmental Science and Technology
Waste plastics are a serious and growing environmental problem. Less than 10% of plastics are recycled, with most discarded in landfills, incinerated, or simply abandoned.1 Single-use plastics constitute about half of plastic waste. While most plastics are used and initially disposed of on land, much eventually enters aquatic ecosystems.2 Wildlife mortalities result from encounters (e.g., ingestion and entanglement) with large debris, including plastic bags. Such bags are excluded from many recycling programs, as they can entangle machinery. Most plastics do not readily biodegrade in the environment. However, they can be embrittled by UV exposure and fragment into microplastics (<5 >mm) and nanoplastics (
Hale, Robert C. and Song, BK, Single-Use Plastics and COVID-19: Scientific Evidence and Environmental Regulations (2020). Environmental Science and Technology, 54(12), 7034-7036.