Journal of Environmental Treatment Techniques
2021, Volume 9, Issue 1, Pages: 148-157
Biodegradation involves many kinds of plastics degrading
Plastics Waste Problems
The plastics degradation process in the environment takes up
0 to 100 years, even reaching 500 years to be degraded
D.nigrificans, and Pseudomonas alcaligenes (16). They can
produce various enzymes, both intracellular and extracellular,
that can degrade plastic polymers to protect the environment
completely (22). Furthermore, the degradation of plastic bags
and styrofoam containers spend 1000 years (4). It causes
negative impacts on the environment as decreasing soil fertility
that contaminated with plastics waste, contaminating water by
plastic constituents, interfering soil-decomposing organisms, and
accumulating toxic compounds through the food chains. Also,
buried plastic waste blocks waterways cause flooding (22).
Plastics waste in both terrestrial and aquatic environments is
the main problem of ecosystem balance. It will be worse when
the plastics have been transformed into invisible microplastics
that are harder to overcome. The large amount of plastics waste
dominated by plastic bags has caused various respiratory and
digestive system problems for thousands of species. Ingested
plastic waste by animals, mainly aquatic animals such as fish,
leads to bioaccumulation of the toxic compounds contained in
the plastic waste. Then the plastic contaminated fish possibly
consumed by humans resulting in many health problems. It is
estimated that in 2050 as many as 99% of seabirds will be
exposed to plastic waste through ingestion (4).
Plastics waste on the land can be broken down by sunlight
into smaller parts or fragments polluting soil and water. Those
toxic fragments may be involved in food chains threatening
many living things. For instance, polyethylene is gravely
hazardous for many aquatic species as aquatic mammals, sea
turtles, and waterbirds when it is consumed accidentally (11).
Plastics waste burning is not an effective solution to solve
plastics accumulation problems. That process releases toxic
gases into the environment including dioxins, heavy metals,
PCBs, and furans causing various respiratory system diseases
14, 15), and to stop plastics polluting the land, air, and water
Type of Plastics
Plastics generally divided into two categories,
thermoplastics and thermosets. Thermoplastics are a group of
plastics that can be melted when heated and hardened when
Terephthalate (PET), Polyethylene (PE), Low-Density
Polyethylene (LDPE), High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE),
Polystyrene (PS), Expanded polystyrene (EPS), Polyvinyl-
chloride (PVC), Polycarbonate, Polypropylene (PP), Polylactic
acid (PLA) and Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA). Meanwhile,
thermosets are plastics which their chemical structures can be
changed when heated thus can not be re-melted. Thermoset
plastics are including Polyurethane (PUR), Phenolic resins,
Epoxy resins, Silicone, Vinyl ester, Acrylic resins,
Ureaformaldehyde (UF) resins (4).
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a transparent and thin
plastic that commonly used as a wrapper for various foods and
drinks. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is a flexible and
strong heat-resistant plastic usually used as a drink container.
High-density polyethylene (HDPE), made from heat-resistant
petroleum, is commonly used as plastic bags. While Polyvinyl
chloride (PVC) is a synthetic plastic containing many chemical
additives such as heavy metals, dioxins, BPA, and phthalates
resulting in various health problems as bronchitis and cancer.
This plastic is widely used as a wrapper, such as vegetable oil
wrapper. Polypropylene (PP), strong and semi-permanent
plastic, commonly used for medicine packaging. Polystyrene
(23, 18). Furthermore, the plastic burning produces CO into the
air, the gas is related to global warming. It will trap solar heat
that increases the earth's surface temperature (24, 18).
PS) is a petroleum-based plastic that contains benzene, a
The accumulated plastics waste on the land is hard to
degrade. It will inhibit the water infiltration into the soil (11),
leads to soil infertility. The plastics waste accumulation on the
land reduces the availability of oxygen in the soil. The amount
of plastics waste in the soil causes the reduction of soil-
decomposing organisms, thus decomposition of organic and
inorganic materials will be decreased that affects the soil fertility
and inhibits plant growth (22).
carcinogenic compound. This plastic widely used as cutleries.
Polycarbonate is a plastic that contains hazardous BPA material,
this plastic is usually used as a reusable bottle (17, 18).
Meanwhile, the most common single-use plastics are LDPE,
HDPE, PET, PS, EPS, and PP (4).
Based on Plastic Europe 2018, In Europe, the highest plastic
demands are LDPE, HDPE, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride,
polyurethane, polystyrene, and polyethylene terephthalate. The
need for LDPE is 17.5% and HDPE 12.3%. While the need for
polypropylene is 19.3%, polyvinyl chloride 10.2%, polyurethane
Plastics Hazardous Substances
Plastics contain some hazardous substances affecting human
.7%, polystyrene 7.4%, and polyethylene terephthalate is 7.4%
In addition to nonbiodegradable synthetic plastics,
health. Dangerous plastic components such as bisphenol A
found in PC and PVC can cause the reproductive system
disorders, mainly the ovaries. Phthalates contained in PS and
PVC lead to testosterone disorders and interfere with sperm
motility. The styrene monomers as those found in polystyrene-
type plastics are carcinogenic. Nonylphenol contained in PVC
causes estrogen disorders. Meanwhile, dioxins, persistent
organic pollutants (POPs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
biodegradable plastics are now being developed and used.
Biodegradable plastics and polymers are materials that are now
widely used in various industries. The use of biodegradable
plastics is related to environmental problems due to the
recalcitrant characteristic of petroleum-based plastics waste.
Some biodegradable plastics are polylactic acid (PLA) and
polybutylene adipate-co-terephthalate (20, 21). Although PLA is
biodegradable, the polymer still requires a long time to be
degraded in nature. The complete biodegradation process of a
biodegradable polymer in nature takes months or even years
PAHs), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found in almost
all plastic types resulting in various health problems. Dioxins are
carcinogens interfering with testosterone disorders. POPs can
disrupt the nervous and reproductive systems. PAHs associated
with the reproductive system and development disorders, and
PCBs related to thyroid hormone disorders (25, 18).