Not plastic bottles, straws or glasses, but Lego fragments will become the main artifacts by which mankind will remember the era of plastic pollution. The reason for this is their durability, the true limits of which have yet to be clarified. But it is already clear today that in such an aggressive environment as salty sea water, with all the ocean storms and surges, small Lego parts will last for many centuries, if not a whole millennium.
In 1997, due to a container ship accident, 5 million Lego pieces hit the ocean at once, about 2 million more have been washed down the drain by children around the world since the early 90s. Plus, a number of components ended up in the sea in the 70s and 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 such "artifacts".
There is incomparably more other plastic waste in nature, but at the very least, it breaks down, partially decomposes and loses its shape. But Lego pieces behave the other way around, says Andrew Turner of the University of Plymouth, which studies the chemical properties of marine debris. His team collected enough samples over 40 years old on British beaches to compare them with the originals and conclude that their wear is extremely low. The details bear clear traces of being at sea, but they practically have not lost their shape and, if desired, they can be used, as they were half a century ago.
Scientists admit that they know little about the long-term behavior of materials like ABS. Based on Turner's research, the destruction of such plastic under the harshest conditions in the wild occurs in at least 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 who mercilessly littered the planet.