The question of polymer waste has become a front page news story, with microplastics leaking into oceans, rivers, soil, air and drinking water, according to Narayan.
A 2015 study, written by Narayan and others, showed the world had between 5 million and 12.7 million tons of "mismanaged" plastic waste, most of it in southeast Asia, he said.
If nothing is done to manage the waste, there will be 618.7 million tons by 2025, 200 million of which will be in the oceans, he said.
Plastics and other polymers must be diverted from landfills into recovery, recycling, composting and waste-to-energy, according to Narayan. "There is no one solution," he said.
The problem with rubber and plastics, he said, is that they are all long-chain, carbon-carbon backbone polymers.
"They are very hard to biodegrade, because they are built to be strong," he said.
Even more of a problem is the confusion surrounding the word "biodegradable," according to Narayan. "If we can't agree on the definition of 'biodegradable,' how can the public depend on biodegradability?" he said. "We need to get closure on this.
"If you don't have a management system that uses the concept of biodegradability responsibly, you do not have an acceptable system," he said.
Biodegradability cannot be the sole solution to polymer waste, according to Narayan. The solution, he said, lies in a collaboration between chemists and biologists.