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Many of our grandparents can remember a time when they lived without any plastics. They managed to drink beverages on the go, carry groceries, and package products entirely with materials that were either compostable or completely recyclable. Since then, plastics have become ubiquitous. They’ve enabled great progress and convenience, but we’re only starting to understand the unexpected environmental consequences.

Yesterday I was strolling through Target and I overheard a little girl lecturing her dad. “Daddy, do you know how long that will last?! My teacher told us that Styrofoam will last for 5 million years! You shouldn’t buy that.”

Passing by that little scene put a smile on my face, and got me thinking about the fate of that disposable plastic product. How long would it last? I’m sorry to disappoint you, but the decay rate of most plastics is essentially unknown, because they have only been around for 70…

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