The dominance and persistence of plastic debris in the marine environment are well documented. No information exists in respect to their lifespan in the marine environment. Nevertheless, the degradation potential of plastic litter items remains a critical issue for marine litter research. In the present study, polyethylene terephthalate bottles (PETs) collected from the submarine environment were characterized using ATR-FTIR in respect to their degradation potential attributed to environmental conditions. A temporal indication was used as indicative to the years of presence of the PETs in the environment as debris. PETs seem to remain robust for approximately fifteen years. Afterwards, a significant decrease of the native functional groups was recorded; some even disappear; or new-not typical for PETs-are created. At a later stage, using the PET time series collected from the Saronikos Gulf (Aegean Sea–E. Mediterranean), it was possible to date bottles that were collected from the bottom of the Ionian Sea (W. Greece). It is the first time that such a study has been conducted with samples that were actually degraded in the marine environment.
C. Ioakeimidis, K. N. Fotopoulou, H. K. Karapanagioti, M. Geraga, C. Zeri, E. Papathanassiou, F. Galgani & G. Papatheodorou, Nature Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 23501 (2016)