Biodegradable plastics and marine litter: misconceptions, concerns and impacts on marine environments

Widespread adoption of products labelled 'biodegradable' will not significantly decrease the volume of plastic entering the ocean or the physical and chemical risks that plastics pose to marine environment, concluded a UN report released. The report, "Biodegradable Plastics and Marine Litter. Misconceptions, Concerns and Impacts on Marine Environments", finds that complete biodegradation of plastics occurs in conditions that are rarely, if ever, met in marine environments, with some polymers requiring industrial composters and prolonged temperatures of above 50°C to disintegrate. There is also limited evidence suggesting that labelling products as 'biodegradable' increases the public's inclination to litter.