Sunlight can degrade polystyrene in decades
Polystyrene degrades much faster than previously thought — breaking down in decades or centuries when exposed to sunlight, a study has found.
Scientists had believed that the polluting material, widely used for food packaging due to its lightness and low cost, would last for thousands of years in the natural environment. However, researchers using simulated sunlight have now shown that polystyrene could chemically degrade into carbon and carbon dioxide much faster.
“We’re not saying that plastic pollution isn’t bad, just that the persistence of polystyrene in the environment may be shorter and likely more complicated than we previously understood,” said lead researcher Collin Ward, a marine chemist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Falmouth, Massachusetts.