12 Everyday Items That Take an Absolutely Crazy Amount of Time to Disappear

When we throw something away, it’s likely that the discarded item ceases to exist in our minds. However, the item’s journey to decomposition has just begun. While decomposition rates can vary depending on conditions, knowing how long everyday items take to decompose in a world overflowing with trash is essential for protecting future generations.

Cardboard – 2 Months

While you can recycle cardboard, it has many other uses. You can use cardboard as garden mulch or creatively repurpose it as a crafty DIY for pet bedding or other crafty items. Compared to the other items on this list, cardboard breaks down quickly when exposed to the elements, but if it’s tightly packed, it can endure for years.

Waxed Cartons – 3 Months

Recycling plants can’t take waxed cartons; that’s why you can find millions of these waxed cardboard packaging in landfills. Waxed cartons have a low packaging-to-product ratio and usually hold milk and other liquids.

Cigarette Butts – 20 Months to 10 Years

Cigarette butts are probably the most common litter on Earth; around 5 trillion cigarettes are consumed yearly, most of which end up dropped on the street or flicked out car windows, where they wash into drains and eventually into the ocean.

Foamed Plastic Containers – 50 Years

Foam plastic containers decompose more quickly than most plastic containers. Even so, you can expect these foam containers to last a half-century before breaking down.

Household alkaline batteries are safe to dispose of at home. However, due to their decomposition process, you must dispose of cars, rechargeable, and other industrial batteries according to federal guidelines.

Batteries – 100 Years

Aluminum cans start to break down after 80 years and will only fully decompose and disintegrate after several centuries. Unlike other materials, you can infinitely recycle aluminum, making it one of the most repurposed recyclables.

Aluminum Cans – 80 to 100 Years

Plastic straws rarely make it into recycling bins, so they have always been a top target for environmentalists to tackle to reduce waste. Humans use millions of plastic straws daily, most of which remain on Earth for two centuries after we toss them.

Plastic Straws – 200 Years

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