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How long does it take for plastic to degrade?

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Quick Answer

The rate at which plastic can degrade depends on the type of plastic. The estimated average time for a plastic bottle to degrade entirely is at least 450 years, but depending on the kind of bottle, it could take 1,000 years.

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The inability of plastic to break down within a human lifetime is causing environmental problems through plastic litter that reaches the oceans. This has led to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of trash ranging from the West Coast of North America to Japan, linked together by ocean currents. Scientists analyzing these waters have found 750,000 bits of microplastic in a single square kilometer.

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