Do you know how long specific trash takes to decompose?

Discarding products made of paper, plastic, metal, glass, or even food is more dangerous than you might think! The period of decomposition of each, after discarded, will determine how much they will pollute the environment and, of course, harm your health. There are solutions to prevent more damage!

From the point of view of sustainability, it is important to be aware of the time of complete disintegration of your garbage when they reach the landfill!

The impact on the environment caused by the time of decomposition of certain materials is terrible and can be reduced if one is aware of this reality. Recycling is one of those ways out.

Recycle whatever can be reused!

First of all, select what can be recycled and start composting your organic waste. Another good alternative is to avoid buying hard-to-decompose products. Simple as it is: find a replacement. No sweat!

If you are not recycling, just select your waste with criteria and organization!

Decomposition time of each material:

Paper - 2 to 6 weeks

For a prolonged duration, paper treatment is done with bactericides. The most common procedure to prevent its natural degradation is to simply burn the paper. The bigger problem is that this process results in the release of toxic gases into the atmosphere! If not incinerated, the paper will take around a month to be completely decomposed.

Plastic - 450 years

Products made of plastics definitely do not decompose at all in landfills. Plastic bags, for example, are made of polyethylene, a polymer created in the laboratory. Single-celled organisms that help in its decomposition do not consume polymers, which makes it difficult to complete the disintegration of plastic-made products. There are other plastic items that, instead of 450 years, which is the average, can take up to 1,000 years to decompose in landfills!

Metal - 50 to 200 years

Products made as iron rivets or with steel sheets do not decompose so easily. The cans, for example, only decompose after about 100 years. Before that, they start rusting and that releases toxic gases into the atmosphere. There are metal parts that do not rust hence do not degrade because some microorganisms do not consume metal particles. The amount of metal thrown away in the world is quite high. In the United States, for example, for every three months, cans that are discarded would reshape an entire fleet of commercial aircraft!

Glass - 1 million years

Glass is a material that can be easily recycled since it is made of sand. To do so, just break it into tiny pieces, grind everything, and produce new glass products. What amazes, however, if the glass remains untouched in the landfill, it may never be decomposed! When the piece of glass is broken into micro fragments microorganisms do not recognize its particles as food.

Organic waste - 1 to 6 months

If there is no organic composting, the time of decomposition of organic waste will depend on the type of food. Generally, an orange peel takes around six months to decompose, while the rest of an apple or a banana peel will take about a month to decompose. Recycling food waste is a great way out to divert unused food away from landfills.

The decomposition rate may always depend on the conditions of the landfill

Time of decomposition of some most common items (sources of information do diverge, but the mentioned estimates, are close to reality):

  • Cigarette - 10-12 years

  • Fishing line - 600 years

  • Rubber sole - 50-80 years

  • Foamed plastic cup - 50 years

  • Leather shoe - 25-40 years

  • Milk carton - 5 years

  • Plywood - 1-3 years

  • Painted board - 13 years old

  • Cotton gloves - 3 months

  • Cardboard - 2 months

  • Nylon fabric - 30-40 years

  • Products made of canvas - 1 year

  • Phone battery - 100 years

  • Wood - 10-15 years

  • Sanitary pad - 500-800 years

  • Woolen clothing - 1-5 years

  • Newspaper - from 2 to 6 weeks

  • Paper packaging - from 3 to 6 months

  • Matches and tips of cigarettes - 2 years

  • Gum - 5 years old

  • Bottlecap - 150 years old

  • Common disposable diaper - 450 years

  • Cotton swab - 1-5 months




Paper (1000 kg)

Cut of 20 trees

Within weeks 

Plastic (1000 kg)

Doubled extraction of oil

Within hundreds of years

Metal (1000 kg)

5 tons of de bauxite

Within dozens of hundreds of years

Glass (1000 kg)

Extraction of 1300 kg of sand

Within 1 million of years

Families and companies, public and private, must have, in their agenda, a plan to contain the disposal of materials in landfills or dumps.



Disclosing to people the time of decomposition of these materials is vital! another alternative is to divert the waste stream and reverse it into durable and recyclable products!

Greenco makes dresses and tees with recycled materials. Check here!