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How long does it take for plastic to decompose?

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Quick Answer

It may take exposure to extremely high temperatures and hundreds of years for plastic to break down on land, but studies show that plastic in the ocean may degrade within 1 year. These recent studies found that plastics can break down much sooner when exposed to cooler temperatures in the ocean and release toxic chemicals like bisphenol A, which can be harmful to humans and ocean life.

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Full Answer

A research team located in Japan tested ocean waters near Japan, the United States, India, Europe and other locations and found that many plastic-related compounds were found that do not occur naturally in the ocean. Compounds such as bisphenol A, styrene trimer and polystyrene by-products that are derived from the hard plastics used to make disposable water bottles were found in water samples taken from oceans around the world.

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