How Long Does It Take To Decompose? 🤔 We Take A Look At Some Of The Most Common Items
How Long Does It Take To Decompose? 🤔: In this blog, we delve deeper into the world of sustainability and determine how long it takes to decompose some of the most common items known to mankind. Continue reading this blog to learn more.
It is no mystery that there a myriad of ways we could do to eliminate waste. One such way that plenty know of is through the process of biodegradation, which means the decomposition of a material by microorganisms. Chances are, you know what we are talking about, meaning that you already have a clear idea on both biodegradation and decomposition (we will mainly focus on decomposition, as per the blog title).
Fact: decomposition means the process of biological reduction to compost, whereas biodegradation means, as stated above, any material’s decomposition by microorganisms.
However, some people may not have an idea on how long it takes a particular item to decompose. Some also have a notion that you can leave everything to landfill, and it will decompose just about everything under the sun. Whilst this is technically correct, it is still a bad idea to send anything in landfill, as what you are sending may be recyclable or reusable, which are better options than sending them to landfill. To add to that point, the item that you want decomposed can take years, decades and even centuries to accomplish.
As a result, we want to give you an idea on how long the decomposition process takes to an item. Particularly, Mr Waster will share how long it takes to decompose some of the most common items known to humankind. Make sure to read on to learn more.
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How long does it take to decompose these common items?
Do take note that no definite timetable exists when it comes to decomposing any item you can think of.
Certain variables such as item composition, moisture, current temperature, exposure to sunlight, presence (or lack thereof) of microorganisms, how buried or exposed the item is and plenty more make it hard to determine how long an item decomposes. Nonetheless, we have considered this and as a result, present to you varying timetables on how long some of the most common items decompose.
Common plastic waste
Let us first start off with one of the most common items in a category of the most common items: plastic waste. As you may all know, there are different types of plastic items, therefore timetables on how long plastic waste decomposes varies.
For example, it may take 1,000(!) years for a plastic bag to degrade when we leave it at landfill. Even then, it does not completely break down and instead photo-degrades, meaning that it breaks down into teensy, tiny pieces (i.e., microplastics) that scatters into the land and oceans.
As for plastic water bottles, depending on different circumstances like those we mentioned above, it may take around 450 years for it to completely break down and decompose. Do also take note that plastic water bottles contain PET, which in turn, contains chemicals that microorganisms cannot consume, therefore taking that long for it to decompose.
Want to learn more about how long an item takes to decompose? Then we urge you to take our quiz!
How long does a cigarette butt take to decompose?
Another one of the most common items we can find are cigarette butts.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Health Survey, the prevalence of daily smoking for Australians aged 18 and over in 2020–21 was 10.7%, and 10.3% among people aged 15 years and over.
To be more precise, they are are the most common form of litter here in our planet. Unfortunately, you can find them anywhere – smokers throwing theirs out of the window onto the road, in the seas and oceans where they end up, in storm drains and more.
Now, how long do cigarette butts take to decompose? The answer: around 10 years. They have slowly-degrading plastic cellulose acetate, which, depending on the circumstances, may take as little as 18 months or as long as 10 years.
Other common items
What about other common items?
A significant amount of metals, unfortunately, end up in landfill. From there, the time it takes for metals to decompose is around 50 to 500 years! Such a waste to send to landfill, so we have to make sure to recycle them,
As for paper, it can decompose around 2 to 6 weeks, faster than all of the items mentioned above. However, we could also recommend you to recycle paper and turn them into a new product.
Food waste, on the other hand, varies heavily, depending on what type of food it is. Some vegetables might take around a week to decompose, whilst other may take half a year to do so. Oranges, for example, decompose around 6 months or more. This may surprise you a bit, but did you know that lettuce takes around 25 years to decompose? That is quite a long time for food waste!
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