Degrading plastics ‘release greenhouse gases’, study shows

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Common plastics are releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as they degrade, a new study has shown.

Greenhouse gases have a direct impact on climate change and have been previously linked to changing sea levels, increasing global temperatures, drought and erosion.

The research, carried out by the University of Hawaii’s Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), discovered that methane was released as the plastic is broken down.

Sarah-Jeanne Royer said the research proves less plastic should be used  Degrading plastics ‘release greenhouse gases’, study shows skynews hawaii plastics ocean rescue 4378187
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Sarah-Jeanne Royer said the research proves less plastic should be used

Methane is a greenhouse gas that absorbs more of the sun’s heat, effectively warming the atmosphere.

Researchers discovered that most common plastics begin to release harmful greenhouse gases when they are exposed to sunlight.



Litter pickers begin the job of clearing the fields at the Glastonbury Festival site at Worthy Farm in Pilton on June 26, 2017 near Glastonbury, England. Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts is the largest greenfield festival in the world. It was started by Michael Eavis in 1970 when several hundred hippies paid just ..1, and now attracts more than 175,000 people  Degrading plastics ‘release greenhouse gases’, study shows skynews glastonbury festival 4373933




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The plastics studied are used to create a variety of everyday items such as food storage, textiles, constructions materials and a range of other goods.

Polyethylene, which is commonly used in plastic bags, was responsible for producing the greatest amount of the greenhouse gases.

David Karl, author of the study and a professor at SOEST, said: “‘Plastics represent a source of climate-relevant trace gases that is expected to increase as more plastic is produced and accumulated in the environment.”

Plastics washed up on the shore in Hawaii  Degrading plastics ‘release greenhouse gases’, study shows skynews plastics ocean rescue 4378188
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Plastics washed up on the shore in Hawaii

This newly discovered source of methane has not been factored into global estimates and could prove to be significant in future predictions.

It comes amid increasing concerns about the growing volume of plastics in the world’s oceans.



A plastic bottle which biodegrades in two to three weeks is being supported by investment from Sky's Ocean Rescue campaign.  Degrading plastics ‘release greenhouse gases’, study shows skynews plastic biodegrable 4372173




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Lead author of the study, Sarah-Jeanne Royer, said: “Considering the amounts of plastic washing ashore on our coastlines and the amount of plastic exposed to ambient conditions, our finding provides further evidence that we need to stop plastic production at the source, especially single use plastic.”

:: Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign encourages people to reduce their single-use plastics. You can find out more about the campaign and how to get involved at www.skyoceanrescue.com



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