How long does it take everyday items to decompose? Earth Day 2021

Time it takes to decompose everyday items - infographic

It’s Earth Day today and what better way to celebrate our home than to learn more about the everyday items that can cause harm to the planet? We chose the following items to give you an idea of how long it takes to break these basic items down:

Toilet paper – 2 months

As you may recall, supermarkets ran a shortage of toilet paper in the beginning of the pandemic due to many people panic buying. As such we know that this is something we all use on a regular basis and perhaps in large quantities, so it’s important to know the impact you are making. Anything paper based can generally be decomposed in a short period of time, but did you know that there’s a difference between normal and biodegradable toilet paper? The latter is made from eco-friendly alternatives (like bamboo, sugar cane, recycled paper) that are easier to break down and requires minimal amount of water to do so. Check out this link for a list of sustainable toilet paper brands! 

 

Cotton t-shirt – 6 months

Cotton is a natural material therefore it is biodegradable through time. However, please always check your tags to see what other components are in the fabric. Synthetic materials like polyester can take decades to breakdown. If your clothing does contain these fibers then fear not, you can still avoid putting them to landfill by reusing, repurposing or donating!

 

Banana peel – up to 2 years

While banana peels are an organic matter, the biodegradability of them depends on the type of soil you put them in (much like many other items). They can easily remain up to 2 years in the ground without be composted, causing a disruption in the soil ecosystem. So please always throw yours in the correct bin! 

 

Milk carton – up to 5 years

Typically any type of carton containing liquid (milk or juice cartons) have a thin layer of polyethylene plastic wrapping or wax coating to make it water proof. Hence why unlike other forms of cardboard boxes, milk cartons can take up to 5 years to be broken down.

 

Crisp packet – 80+ years

A delicious pack of crisps can be enjoyed in a few minutes, but the packaging is made from a durable metallized plastic film which can take over 80 years to be decomposed! Check out The Crisp Packet Project who are recycling the plastic packaging and turning them into insulating blankets for people experiencing homelessness!

 

Plastic bottle – 450 years

We all know the danger of plastic bottles to our planet – even when the bottle is broken down, the plastic micro-particles will still exist in the soil and in the ocean in which the fish in the sea could consume and end up into our bellies through the seafood we eat!

 

Disposable masks – 450+ years

While it’s important to stay safe and protected during the pandemic, we must still be aware of the negative impact the disposable face masks have on the environment and marine animals. In order to avoid the unnecessary waste, let’s either try to use reusable masks or dispose your single use face masks properly in the bin.

 

Glass jars – 1 million years

Although you may think that glass is a fragile material, the components make it extremely durable therefore even if broken in pieces, the glass itself is will not biodegrade. Scientists think that it may eventually be composted in a million years, but that’s still a very long time, so instead of throwing it in the bin where it could potentially end up in landfill anyway, why not turn that empty strawberry jam jar into a container for your spices (ie. repurpose, repurpose, repurpose)!

 

So if you haven't already, we hope you'll take those baby steps to helping restore our Earth by being more mindful and conscious of the everyday items we use and the way we dispose them.


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