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How long does our waste take to break down?

How long does out waste take to break downWe are now more aware than ever that we need to get rid of our waste in the most responsible way as possible. This is important as there are many materials that take years, decades, or even centuries to decompose. Here, we answer the question “how long does our waste take to break down?" 

Under a year  

Train tickets 

Cotton gloves  





Up to 5 Years 


Wool clothing  

Up to 15 years 


Painted board  


Between 20 and 100 years 

Leather (25-40 years) 

Nylon clothes (25-40 years) 

Tin cans (up to 50 years) 

Foamed plastic cups (up to 50 years) 

Rubber-soled boots (50-80 years) 

Up to 500 years 

Batteries (up to 100 years) 

Batteries are one of the most dangerous items to be left in a landfill. As the thin metal casing will decompose in approximately 100 years, the heavy metals inside will be left exposed. Unfortunately, these metals will never decompose and are toxic.  

Aluminium cans (200 years) 

Sanitary pads (at least 500 years) 

plastic bags (at least 500 years) 

plastic bottles (up to 450 years) 

Over 500 years 

Glass bottles (up to 2 million years) 



It is important to note that although glass bottles can take a staggering 2 million years to naturally decompose, they are easy to recycle due to the fact that they are mostly made out of sand.  

Food Waste  

It is reasonable to believe that because food waste comes from the ground, it should decompose quickly. However, this is not actually the case. Different food items decay at different rates. Whilst something like a banana peel may take up to a month to decay, orange peels can take six months. Surprisingly lettuce leaves that are in landfills can stay up to a quarter of a century before they decompose completely. This is another reason why food waste should also be kept to an absolute minimum. 

Although this list is not comprehensive, it is a scary concept to consider the fact that a lot of the rubbish we personally create in our lifetime could still be around centuries after. However, it is not all doom and gloom. There are many little changes we can all make to our everyday routines that can help reduce the amount of waste we produce. From cutting back on plastic in our beauty routines, to using reusable coffee cups, avoiding plastic bags for shopping, and keeping our clothes for longer. 

Some of the figures shared above are truly shocking. They highlight the vital need to reduce using these materials where possible and if we do use them, check to see if they can be recycled first. Hiring a skip is an efficient way to ensure as much as your waste is being recycled as possible.  

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