How Long Does It Take To Decompose?

Note From The Editor: This article has been so popular over the years that we have decided to make a part 2. To dive even deeper into this topic, be sure to check out “How Long Does It Take To Decompose – Part 2“.

Today I feel like posting some interesting facts about some of the most common products we use on a daily basis. Since this is Green Week (at least according to NBC), I would like to add some good-to-know info into the mix. I know that in these days, all we hear is recycle this or reuse that, but it all comes at us for a reason. We’re finally realizing that we can make a difference for the future of our Earth, so why not act upon it? Many times we can become blinded from the endless amounts of statistics and numbers being introduced, but maybe this list can help us understand how important it is to watch what we do with these essential daily items. Check out how long each of these products take to decompose in the environment…

  • Banana Peel: 3-4 weeks
  • Paper Bag: 1 month
  • Cardboard: 2 months
  • Wool Sock: 1 year
  • Tinned Steel Can: 50 years
  • Aluminum Can: 200-500 years (But if recycled, it can be reused within 6 weeks!)
  • Disposable Diapers: 550 years
  • Plastic Bags: 20-1000 years
  • Plastic Jug: 1 million years
  • Glass: 1-2 million years
  • Styrofoam: 1+ million years

This list might put some of the Green supporters’ words into perspective for a lot of people. It sure opened my eyes when I did a little research to see what the highest concerns were with today’s products. Just make sure you care as much about the container as you do about the healthy food within it. Without a productive, prospering Earth, there cannot be a way to keep ourselves in healthy condition.

Click here to read the second part to this article.

Sources include QLPA, No More Trash! & ABC.
(Some Links No Longer Exist)

  • hi jonh +how is ti goning

  • Lisa

    nail polish almost instantly dissinagrates styrafoam. try it if you dont believe me.

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  • lucy

    How long does it take for a GREEN BAG to decompose

  • thats fair i like that idea thanks for he thinggs to

  • how long does it take for a light bolb

  • Dose styrofoam really take 1 million years to break

  • Lai

    wow. so useful 4 me b/c im doing a project

  • But how long does it take for a plastic cup to breack down in a land fill?

  • carrie

    hi i am doing my seior project on styrofome and how it is effecting our schools i my school has 1600 kides that eat breackfast and lauch every day and they eat off styrofome trays and i think that is wrong how do i get the school bord to stop usesing it

  • Bob

    I care about climate change. I care about species becoming extinct. I care about erosion. I don’t see why I should care how long I takes for plastic to decompose. What on earth difference does it make?

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  • i love to recycle way to go if you don’t recycle start recycling right !

  • Banana appeal

    How long does a banana take to decompose if it has been inserted up my arse?

  • mm

    how long does it take for a computer to decompose

  • Sean Hussey

    The numbers are lies. I left some plastic in oil by accident and it decomposed within a couple hours. If you don’t believe me, then try it yourself.

  • CaptJellico

    This pathetic list has been cited as if it’s some peer-reviewed piece of research when nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s the rough breakdown:

    The first three are reasonable. A wool sock buried in the desert could last for many years, whereas if it were thrown into a swamp would only take a couple of months to decompose.

    Aluminum, on the other hand, could last for millennia as it does not breakdown the way other metals do. Only a physical action can grind it down into smaller pieces.

    Disposable diapers, plastic bags, and plastic jugs might last a few hundred years if kept buried, but plastics tend to photo-degrade. Anyone who has put trash in a plastic bag and then left it outside for a few weeks know that if you attempt to pick it up, it will disintegrate in your hands. As for plastic that ends up in the ocean, a National Geographic article in 2009 detailed a study that reported that plastic breaks down in the ocean a lot faster than originally thought. Even in cold ocean waters, plastics break down within a year. As for 1 million years for a plastic jug? That is a complete fantasy! The only thing made by man that has a chance of lasting a million years is any space probe that has a path taking it out of the solar system… and even that I wouldn’t bet too much money on.

    As for the glass bottle, some small shard of glass might last a million years or so, but even that is unlikely. Physical forces would likely render it back into sand on those time scales.

    As for Styrofoam, even the EPA indicates that the idea it will take a million years to decompose is a myth. 50 years is what is cited on their website. 80 years for a styrofoam buoy (because it has a protective coating precisely to prevent it from breaking down in the ocean, and even that only buy it an extra 30 years!).

  • Oscar71

    If you made room by taking your head out of it first you could find out.

  • Melissa Shank

    You idiot, this article is about physical change not chemical change. What you did was chemical because both parties were changed. What the article was talking about would be a physical change. The only thing that the article implied was happening would be weather and other natural forces, not putting it in oil. Though your oil thing might be true, it doesn’t matter in comparison to the article and what was said in the article.

  • Allison Chitwood

    How long does it take for silicone to decompose?

  • Allison Chitwood

    It would take 2 months

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