About this Research Topic
Plastics are one of the most used materials in the world. They are broadly integrated into today’s lifestyle and are present in almost all product areas. Unfortunately, one of the characteristics of plastics that make them so useful – durability – also enables them to persist in the environment for very long periods of time. Additionally, because of their low cost, many plastic objects have long been perceived as disposable. The result is the ubiquitous presence of plastic debris all over the planet.
Close attention has been paid over the years to the increasing amount of plastics in the oceans and to their adverse effects on marine fauna. The earliest discoveries of plastic debris inside dead marine birds as well as the first attempts to quantify floating plastic debris in the western North Atlantic Ocean date back more than 40 years. Since then, a large number of studies has documented their increasing prevalence and undesired effects, with a recent exponential increase in attention to microplastics.
Research on plastics is now an extremely dynamic field involving a great deal of funding and effort. There are calls to integrate and introduce more biodegradable or recyclable plastics into the market, in order to shift towards more sustainable supply chains, but there some debate about which solutions make the most sense economically and sustainably. There is also concern about some additives used in plastics, many of which are endocrine disrupting substances or otherwise harmful to the environment if released from the material. Plastics are complex matrices and understanding their complete life cycle and the (eco)toxicological implications of their extensive use is a very much needed, albeit difficult, task. We would like to welcome contributions covering all aspects of plastic research in this Research Topic in Frontiers in Environmental Science. A global, transdisciplinary problem requires a global, transdisciplinary response.
Potential topics include, but are not limited to, the following:
• Life cycles of different types of plastics;
• Implications of the presence of additives in plastics along their life cycle;
• Plastic disposal, incineration and recycling;
• Plastic environmental degradation pathways;
• Presence and fate of nano, micro and macroplastics in the environment;
• Need for reference analytical methods for the analysis of plastics and their constituents in the environment;
• Novel analytical approaches to characterising environmental plastics;
• Interaction of all types (and sizes) of plastics with biota;
• Environmental risk factors associated with plastics including food security;
• Exposure to plastic additives; and
• Regulations on plastic use, disposal and recycling, including the shift to a circular economy.
Keywords: plastics, microplastics, debris, life cycle, recycling, environmental degradation, regulation
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.