The Decomposition Clock

The Decomposition Clock


Items that decompose are those that are able to break down or decay. Banana peels and newspapers are examples of items that decompose quickly in the appropriate environments. Many people disregard recycling because they believe our garbage will break down in landfill. Unfortunately, the truth is most of our items take much longer to decompose than we think. The plastic bottle you just threw away will probably be around for the next 450 years! Along with our graph featured above, we’ve put together a timeline to fill you in on how long it takes these frequently used items to decompose.


Never Biodegrades


Styrofoam is 95% air and light-weight making it ideal for single-use packaging but very difficult to break down or recycle. As a result, Styrofoam doesn’t decompose and will stay in landfill forever.



1 Million Years – Never


Glass is very resilient and takes a very long time to break down, if ever. Glass usually doesn’t decompose completely but breaks down into smaller pieces.




500 – 1,000 years


Along with the lengthy decomposition time, plastic bags are very troublesome because they are very difficult to recycle. Most plastic bags are either in landfill or polluting the environment.



100 – 450 years


It’s estimated that more than 80% of all single-use water bottles in the United States become “litter.” Thus, about 2 million tons of water bottles are in landfill source.



450 years


The EPA reports that 20 billion disposable diapers are sent to landfill every year, and they do not decompose very well.



250 Years


Aluminum cans can be recycled and be back on the shelf in as little as 6 weeks but takes around 250 years to decompose. Fun fact: Aluminum is the most recyclable material!



100 Years


Batteries break down very slowly and as they decompose, harmful chemicals and toxins are released into our soil and water. Batteries should therefore be collected separate from waste and recycling.



40 Years


An estimated 300 million pairs of shoes are thrown away every year. Leather shoes are specifically problematic in landfill because of the harmful chemicals used during the tanning process.



We hope that you have learned a lot about the life-span of these every day materials and that you are inspired to recycle or dispose of them correctly to avoid having them spend many years in landfill! Feel free to get in touch with us for more information!