Plastic Can Take 500 Years To Bio-Degrade In The Ocean


The Humble Scot!
May 19, 2009
Yesterday, the European Parliament overwhelmingly backed a sweeping ban on a range of single-use plastics in an effort to curb maritime pollution. The proposed directive will ban items such as plastic straws, cutlery, plates and cotton swabs by 2021 and ensure that 90 percent of plastic bottles are recycled by 2025. MEPs backed the legislation by 571 votes to 53.

According to the European Parliament, the products that will be banned account for over 70 percent of maritime litter. MEPs also agreed that measures need to be taken to reduce pollution from tobacco products, particularly cigarette filters that contain plastic. They are the second most littered single-use plastic item and one butt can pollute between 500 and 1,000 liters of water, taking up to a decade to bio-degrade. Under the directive, waste from cigarette filters containing plastic will have to be reduced by 50 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2030.

The following infographic uses data from NOAA and Woods Hole Sea Grant to show just how long it takes for a range of other plastic items to bio-degrade in a marine environment. Governments have been highly active banning plastic grocery bags and they can take twice as long as cigarette butts to bio-degrade. Other items are far worse, however, with plastic beverage holders, plastic bottles and disposable diapers all taking 400 years or longer to finally break up and disappear.

Source: Statista


Executive Member
Aug 17, 2005
When they say "bio-degrade" do they mean into nothing or just into smaller and smaller particles of plastic. I thought this was the whole problem with plastic?


Well-Known Member
May 23, 2017
While the concept of eliminating pollutants such as plastics, fossil fuels etc is desirable from an ecological viewpoint, the reality is that mankind has become entrenched in the technological and economical advantages of these products.
Put another way, the cost of replacing machinery and production, creating new fuel sources on a major scale, and modified engines to run on this, is a gradual and expensive process.
Each country, especially at coastal cities, needs to stiffen littering laws with hefty fines imposed.
Recycling is probably the only current solution until someone invents an "atomizer" furnace or chemical.
A few decades back, there was an article somewhere about a strain of bacteria that breaks down plastic into (hydrogen / carbon)? molecules. - Wonder where this led to? - Maybe too slow, harmful by-products (eg methane?)..


Expert Member
Apr 17, 2016
The proposed directive will ban items such as plastic straws
I refuse to order a milkshake at any place that uses those cardboard straws. They change the flavour of the drink and fall apart after 2 minutes. So, until I get around to ordering my stainless steel straw set, those Bar One milkshakes are off the menu.