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Here’s How Long It Takes For Your Trash to Decompose

It can takes decades for everyday materials to decompose in landfills.

World Environment Day is just around the corner and though we shared some of our favorite ways to celebrate, the annual awareness day also got us thinking about ways we can take better care of the environment. Since trash is a huge part of our everyday lives, we figured we’d focus our energy on an issue that’s really piling up.

Americans produce over four pounds of waste per person every day equating to more than 220 million tons of trash each year. In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that Americans generated 258 million tons of trash – approximately 62 percent of that waste ended up in landfills. With 3,091 landfills across the U.S., these dumps create the second largest source of human-related methane emissions in the country.

These staggering stats got us thinking . . . what really happens to the trash we dispose of? How long does it take for these discarded items to decompose?

SaveOnEnergy, a company that connects people to energy plans, recently created visually engaging graphics that help answer these questions. They used NOAA data and other government sources to uncover how long it takes for everyday items and materials to decay and decompose. The results may surprise you:

Seeing the amount of time it takes for banana skins, orange peels, and apple cores to decompose wasn’t exactly surprising, especially since these foods can easily be composted but the same can’t be said for other materials on the list such as plastic and nylon which can take anywhere from 10 to 40 years to breakdown.

By donating unwanted items to charity and recycling, there are many ways you can reduce your personal waste and avoid items like these from ending up in landfills. But you can do one better by changing everyday habits like using reusable bags instead of plastic bags or quitting smoking to avoid filters from littering the land. In doing so, you won’t have to worry about how long these items take to decompose or feel guilty during the process.

We hope these findings will inspire you to make changes that will benefit your lifestyle and the environment. To see how long it takes for foam cups and diapers to decompose along with other everyday disposable items, you can view the full guide here.

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