At Ecology Recycling & Transportation Services, our passion is providing recycling resources across Southern California, as well as the Western United States. While we try to do our part to contribute to a green planet, we have noticed that when people do not recycle and instead throw out trash that ends up in landfills, it is generally due to the fact that they are unaware how long it actually takes for everyday materials to decompose in landfills. As we know, this has a terrible impact on the planet. Below, we present to you the 10 types of common trash that take the longest to decompose.
1. Plastic Bags
Despite the awareness raised about the environmental dangers caused by plastic waste, particularly in Southern California, there are still plenty of people who use plastic bags. We are still offered the option of having our items bagged in plastic at most grocery stores of course. Unfortunately, people tend to throw out their used and unwanted plastic bags in the garbage instead of returning them to the grocery store for recycling. It takes these bags anywhere from 10-1000 years to decompose in landfills!
2. Plastic Bottles
Be it a simple water bottle you buy at a festival, or a Gatorade bottle from the convenience store, plastic bottles take a major toll on our environment, and should always be recycled. When left to rot in a landfill, it takes plastic bottles about 450 years to decompose.
3. Aluminum Cans
Aluminum cans are one of America’s favorite items to recycle. But at the same time, enough cans are thrown away in the trash within a three-month period to rebuild the U.S. commercial air fleet! Yes, that is a lot of cans! It also takes them about 80-200 years to decompose in a landfill.
4. Paper Waste
Many of us throw out paper trash when we should be recycling it. In fact, it just so happens to take up the most space in landfills. Can you imagine what it would be like if we all were better at recycling our paper waste? It only takes about 2-6 weeks for paper waste to decompose in landfills, and while that is quicker than most waste, it hardly matters since more paper waste is continuously being added to landfills.
Because foam is so well known for being a major drain on the environment, it is luckily disappearing from our everyday lives. But not quick enough! We still use foam cups for hot beverages, and we still receive foam padding in the boxes of large appliances. It takes about 50 years for a foam cup to decompose.
6. Rubber Boot Soles
Except for few, eco-minded brands, most shoe manufacturers put rubber soles on the bottom of their sneakers and boots. And of course, when we toss old shoes away, they end up in a landfill. It takes about 50-80 years for rubber boot soles to decompose!
7. Milk Cartons
Milk cartons are made with paperboard, as well as an insulating layer of polyethylene plastic and a dash of shelf-stable-friendly aluminum. This is terrible for the environment, and when thrown away, milk cartons take about 5 years to decompose.
8. Nylon Fabric
Nylon fabric is mainly a utility fabric, used in many sports-related items, as well as craft projects. But when trashed, nylon fabric takes 30-40 years to decompose.
There are so many different types of batteries, which we rely on daily to keep our items, as well as ourselves, on-the-go. But when we toss out the everyday batteries we use, it takes them about 100 years to fully decompose.
Styrofoam, a foam cup’s big ugly brother! It is made with polystyrene, a petroleum-based plastic, so it is not remotely sustainable. Just like with tin foil, Styrofoam does not biodegrade, meaning it just takes up space in landfills.