How long does it take for plastic to decompose?

You might be surprised to learn that plastics DO decompose…. eventually. Given a long enough time frame, everything decomposes. The problem is, that time frame for plastic is often in the thousands to tens of thousands of years.

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Whereas natural products decompose within tens of years. In the summer, my produce scraps decompose into compost in a few weeks.

We know the amount of time to breakdown materials in a landfill is severely decreased due to the the lack of oxygen necessary for decomposition.

But why does it take so long for plastic to decompose in soil?

When we talk about food or organic material, these bacteria have enough energy to break the food into pieces. But when it comes to plastic, bacteria does not have enough energy to decompose the materials.

In other words, the chemical bonds that hold the monomers of plastic together are stronger than power of nature to decompose them. The micro-organisms in soil can easily attack and decompose wood and other living materials but various other stronger chemical bonding and interactions cannot be broken down that commonly is present in most of the plastics.

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That’s why it’s so important to try to find items and packaging that are more sustainable relative to plastic, like paper, cardboard, glass, or no packaging at all! I know that’s been a challenge lately, but things will get better ❤️.

 

Sources: Sandeep Chatterjee, Co-Founder of Environwaste, wwf.org.autorontoenvironment.org.

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