Common Garbage & How Long They Take to Decompose

Everything on earth including humans eventually decomposes, which means to separate into simpler compounds. However, the decomposition time of each material is different. Moreover, some of them are hazardous and shouldn’t be thrown directly into a landfill. That’s why waste sorting is necessary. Hiring a professional junk removal company such as Jiffy Junk means your junk goes to the right place. They donate and recycle most of the junk. And the remaining trash goes to a landfill.

If you are concerned about the environment, you probably want to know how long garbage takes to decompose. Let’s talk about a few common garbage types and their decomposition time.

Cigarette Butts

People smoke about 5.5 trillion cigarettes each year. So probably one of the most common wastes on the planet is cigarette butts. Their filters contain cellulose acetate, a natural plastic. They take approximately 18 months to 10 years to decompose.

Plastic Bags

Plastic bags take about 10 to 1000 years to decompose. Thankfully, people have become aware of climate change in recent years. Many countries have decided to reduce or even stop using plastic bags. However, they are still one of the most common wastes.


People use billions of straws each day. Unfortunately, they take up to 200 years before they rejoin nature. Straw is an unnecessary item for most people. And worse, people rarely deliver them to recycling centers. Thankfully, environmentalists are targeting to reduce plastic straws and other plastic waste.

Plastic Cups (Foam)

Foamed plastic cups take far less time than plastic litter. Still, they take about 50 years before they break down completely.

Wet Wipes

Wet wipes are widely used for house cleaning, changing babies’ diapers, removing makeup, etc. Sadly, they contain polyester-based plastic, which takes about 100 years to decompose.


Tin is widely used to create food cans. It is also found in a lot of electronics. This material takes about 50 years to break down.


In the United States, people abandon about 242 million tires each year. And only seven percent are delivered at recycling centers. Tires take about 20 centuries to rejoin nature. In addition, they are packed with oils, lead, and many pollutants. These compounds are damaging our environment seriously. 

Nylon Fishing Net

Nylon fishing nets are popular all over the world. They have a long life cycle as you can use them for quite a while. However, the problem occurs when you lose or cut them. They take half a century to fully decompose. And more importantly, these nets pose a threat to wildlife and marine life.

Plastic Bottles

Plastic bottles waste is an international problem. In the United States alone, people throw 60 million bottles each day instead of recycling them. They take 450 years before rejoining nature.

Most of these bottles end up in streets, oceans, incinerators, and landfills. Thankfully, they can be easily recycled if you drop them at a recycling center. Instead of throwing it in the bin, hand it over to a junk removal company.

Cotton Clothing

Cotton is widely used to manufacture clothes. Most of the time, people throw their clothes instead of donating. Thankfully, cotton shirts take only six months to decompose.

Synthetic Fabric

Synthetic fabric may look elegant but it is damaging our environment. It takes a couple of centuries to decompose. Fortunately, you can repurpose or donate these fabrics.

Aluminum Cans

Compared to other materials, aluminum cans are recyclable an unlimited number of times. People should always deliver these cans to a recycling center. A junk removal company can help you deliver them to the right place.

Aluminum cans start to decompose after 100 years. And it takes a few centuries before they fully break down.


It is a no-brainer that veggies take no time to decompose. Most vegetables take five days to one month to rejoin nature. In addition, they are rich in nutrients. Vegetables are an excellent option for composting.

Aerosol Bottles

These are bottles to contain body spray, hair spray, paint, and other things. They take about 500 years to break down.


Depending on the material, ropes take about three to fourteen months to rejoin nature. Some materials decompose faster than others; synthetic materials take longer than natural ones.

Tampons, Pads, and Disposable Diapers

In the United States alone, people throw about 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons each year. The cotton breaks down quite fast. However, most of these products have a plastic lining that takes various decades to decompose.

Disposable diapers are another global problem. They need more than five centuries to decompose. So make sure that you don’t flush any of these items down the toilet. They pose a threat to wildlife. You should always hand them over to a junk removal service.


Plywood is widely used for cabinets and other furniture items. They take about one to three years to break down. However, the glue takes a lot more time to rejoin nature.


Batteries must be disposed of carefully. If you don’t know how to take care of old batteries, consider hiring a junk removal company. Batteries take about a century to break down.


Glass may seem fragile but it takes more than a million years to decompose. It is probably one of the most durable materials on the planet.


Thread is everywhere: in clothing, suitcases, furniture, etc. Thankfully, it breaks down quickly. It takes only three to four months to rejoin nature.


Paper is commonly recycled all over the world. It takes only a month to decompose. However, its volume is a major concern, as paper takes more space in landfills than other materials. 

Final Thoughts on Proper Junk Removal

As we live, we create a lot of garbage that leaves an impact on the planet. Although they do decompose in the end, some take centuries or even more to do so. That’s why what we need to do is reduce, reuse, recycle, and leave our junk at the right place. These are extremely important to ensure a healthy environment.

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