Not plastic bottles, straws or glasses, but fragments of the Lego constructor will become the main artifacts by which humanity will recall the era of environmental pollution by plastic.
The reason for this is their longevity, the true limits of which have yet to be clarified. But today it’s clear that in such an aggressive environment as salty sea water, with all the ocean storms and surfs, the small Lego details will last for many centuries, if not a whole millennium.
In 1997, due to a container ship accident, 5 million Lego parts fell into the ocean at once, about 2 million more were washed off to the sewers by children around the world from the beginning of the 90s. Plus, a number of components fell into the sea in the 70-80s, when all Lego products were already created from durable acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). There are also details left on land – in the future people are guaranteed to find many of these “artifacts”.
Other plastic trash in nature are incomparably more, but they somehow collapse, partially decompose and lose their shape. But Lego details behave the other way around, says Andrew Turner of Plymouth University, who studies the chemical properties of marine litter.
His team collected enough specimens over 40 years old on British beaches to compare them with the originals and come to the conclusion that their wear is extremely insignificant. Details bear obvious traces of being at sea, but practically have not lost their form and, if desired, they can be used, like half a century ago.
Scientists admit that they know little about the behavior of materials like ABS in the long run. Based on Turner’s research, the destruction of such plastic under the most severe conditions in the wild occurs in no less than 130 years. But much more likely values are ten times greater, up to 1300 years. Our descendants will receive a lot of material evidence of the carelessness of distant ancestors, mercilessly littering the planet.