Ranking environmental degradation trends of plastic marine debris based on physical properties and molecular structure

Kyungjun Min, Joseph D. Cuiffi, Robert T. Mathers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations

Abstract

As plastic marine debris continues to accumulate in the oceans, many important questions surround this global dilemma. In particular, how many descriptors would be necessary to model the degradation behavior of ocean plastics or understand if degradation is possible? Here, we report a data-driven approach to elucidate degradation trends of plastic debris by linking abiotic and biotic degradation behavior in seawater with physical properties and molecular structures. The results reveal a hierarchy of predictors to quantify surface erosion as well as combinations of features, like glass transition temperature and hydrophobicity, to classify ocean plastics into fast, medium, and slow degradation categories. Furthermore, to account for weathering and environmental factors, two equations model the influence of seawater temperature and mechanical forces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number727
JournalNature communications
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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