Degradation of plastic waste in the marine environment

Wai Chin LI, Hin Fung TSE, Ho Man LEUNG, Ying Kit YUE

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapters


Annual global plastic production reached 360 million tonnes in 2018, with only 20% of the plastic waste being recycled. It has been predicted that production will double in the next 20 years. This review summarizes the occurrence, effects, and pathways as well as the degradation mechanisms and rates of different types of plastic waste in the marine environment. Approximately 75% of the litter found in the marine environment is mainly plastic, including polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, and polymers. Marine plastic waste has been found to accumulate in the open sea and deep sea and on beaches and shorelines of most remote areas, even in Arctic sea ice. Because of its durable and corrosion-resistant properties, plastic waste tends to accumulate and persist in the marine environment. The interaction of plastic waste with environmental conditions results in chemical, physicochemical, and biological degradation of the plastic waste and thus changes in its surface properties. Thus, both physical and chemical impacts from the degradation of plastic waste threaten marine organisms and even human health. Finally, some sustainable practices are suggested for the bioremediation of plastic waste. Copyright © 2022 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImpact of plastic waste on the marine biota
EditorsMohd. SHAHNAWAZ, Manisha K. SANGALE, Zhu DAOCHEN, Avinash B. ADE
Place of PublicationSingapore
ISBN (Electronic)9789811654039
ISBN (Print)9789811654022, 9789811654053
Publication statusPublished - 2022


Li, W. C., Tse, H. F., Leung, H. M., & Yue, Y. K. (2022). Degradation of plastic waste in the marine environment. In M. Shahnawaz, M. K. Sangale, Z. Daochen, & A. B. Ade (Eds.), Impact of plastic waste on the marine biota (pp. 143-174). Singapore: Springer.


  • Plastic waste
  • Degradation
  • Marine
  • Physical effects
  • Chemical effects


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