How Long Does It Take for Common Household Items to Decompose Naturally?

How Long Does It Take for Common Household Items to Decompose Naturally?

Many of us don’t give much thought to what happens to our household garbage or waste when it leaves our homes. We can raise our awareness about items that decompose slowly and pose a threat to our environment. By learning about decomposition rate, we might be inspired to lessen consumption. We may know that the trash we throw out ends up in a recycling center or landfill. What happens next?

Some people commonly assume that once waste goes onto the landfill, the natural chemical buildup within the garbage will cause the trash to decompose naturally, with no difficulty. However, different kinds of waste decompose at various intervals. Decomposition also depends on the kind of landfill where the waste is disposed.

Plastic Waste

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Plastics have become a common part of everyday life. From food packaging to furniture, plastic use is nearly universal. Plastic waste takes a long time to decompose naturally. Plastic spends an average of 1,000 years decomposing. Bags used for grocery shopping and plastic food packaging decompose within 10 to 1000 years (depending upon density and other factors) and plastic bottles take 450 years or more.


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Glass bottles can be recycled once emptied of their contents. Recycling centers break down these bottles, melt them, and produce new glass. When they aren’t recycled, glass items dumped in the landfill take about a million years to decompose.

Paper Waste

How Long Does It Take for Common Household Items to Decompose Naturally?

Next to plastic, paper is the most common waste generated by human beings. In a landfill, paper waste decomposes naturally in about 2-4 weeks. By recycling the paper instead, landfill space is freed up for other types of waste. Therefore, energy needed to break down other landfill garbage is utilised on tougher items to decompose.

Food Waste

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Not all food waste decomposes equally. It all does so naturally, but at different rates. For example, fruit peels like bananas and apples break down in about a month, while corn cobs can take several months to decompose.

Knowing what happens to your trash after you throw it away can help you make better decisions about how you dispose of garbage. Sorting refuse so it can be recycled or composted is a start, but purchasing less plastic and packaging can also benefit the planet. If you have questions about proper waste management and want to dispose of garbage responsibly, call M&M Services at (519) 649-6440.