How long does plastic decompose for?

Plastic is one of the materials that take the longest to decompose and, at the same time, is one of the most widely used in today’s society. Everything comes in a container made of plastic, so the amount of waste generated is frankly alarming.

How long does plastic take to decompose?

It is estimated that plastic takes between 100 and 1,000 years to decompose, so it is considered a very slow and long-term decomposing material. A plastic bottle takes up to 500 years to disintegrate, although if it is buried, this time is even longer.

In the last 30 years, the manufacture of plastic products has increased worldwide by more than 70%. While the flexible and unbreakable nature of plastic makes it ideal for use in items that were previously prone to breakage, such as bottles and jars, the durable nature of plastic also means that plastic products take years to decompose, even in landfills.

How long does plastic takes to degrade

Plastic is a material that takes a long period of time to decompose, as it is very slow to decompose in nature. In summary, we can clarify that, in reality, depending on the type of plastic, it takes between 100 and 1000 years to degrade, with an average of 500 years. Learn about the different types of plastics with this other article from EcologíaVerde.

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Here we mention a couple of cases that are the ones that usually generate more doubts because they are the most used products:

How long does it take for a plastic bottle to degrade?

PET bottles are one of the most used plastic objects worldwide, and it is normal to wonder how long it can take to disappear if it reaches the forest floor or the sea. A PET plastic bottle can take up to 1,000 years to fully decompose in nature.

How long does it takes for a plastic bag to decompose

Plastic bags are another of the most widely used objects around the world, although efforts are being made to return to the use of cloth bags, baskets, etc., to replace them as far as possible. A plastic bag can take more than 150 years to degrade.

Environmental impact of plastic

These are the main points of the serious environmental impact of plastic:

– One of the most worrying impacts of plastic is worldwide, this being the pollution of seas and oceans. In fact, in the North Pacific Ocean, between Japan and California, there is an area with a high concentration of plastic waste. This area has several names, and one of them is “plastic island”. In this other article, we tell you more about what plastic islands are and how they are formed. In addition, here below, you can see a video about this problem of the oceans.
– Plastic in the sea and ocean not only has an impact on the landscape but also on its biodiversity. In the case of animals, they can get entangled with plastics or get injured and sometimes they can end up dying, so there is a significant loss of biodiversity.
– The most harmful plastics are microplastics, which are smaller than 5 mm, and although they may have been formed by the fragmentation of a macroplastic, they are also manufactured in this way for hygiene products such as detergents toothpaste or exfoliants. These microplastics are small plastic particles that the sewage treatment plants are not able to retain and reach the sea directly. The consequence is very serious since they are ingested by animals, causing gastrointestinal problems and alterations in their life cycle or even killing them. In addition, these microplastics are transferred in the food chain, reaching the food consumed by humans, so we end up ingesting the microplastics ourselves, who have produced them. Macroplastics are also very harmful, but these at least can be cleaned up more easily. Learn more about What are microplastics and their consequences with this other EcologyGreen article.

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Although the seas and oceans are the most visibly affected ecosystems, plastic can end up in any corner of the planet: forests, natural parks, the streets where we walk, beaches.

Degradation time of inorganic wastes

Glass bottles

Although glass disposal is relatively environmentally friendly because no harmful substances are released during the process, it can take up to 4,000 years for glass to disappear. Glass is fairly inexpensive to create, but as it is 100% recyclable, it is essential that we dispose of it in the correct container.

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Why it is important to recycle batteries

The components of a battery take between 500 and 1,000 years to degrade, with the added bonus that, if not properly treated, they can be highly polluting. Of the contents of batteries, mercury is the most harmful metal because if it comes into contact with water, it produces methyl mercury, a compound that concentrates in the food chain and causes serious nervous system disorders in living beings. According to specialized studies, a mercury battery can contaminate 600,000 litres of water, a zinc-air battery, 12,000 litres, a silver oxide battery, 14,000 litres, and a common battery, 3,000 litres.

Degradation time of plastic waste

We have talked about how long it takes for plastic to degrade on other occasions. In short, 150 years is the time it takes for an ordinary plastic bag to degrade. A PET bottle can take 1,000 years to disappear. Let’s recycle these materials properly and, whenever possible, avoid using plastic containers and replace them with biodegradable ones such as paper or cloth bags.