How long does your rubbish really take to break down?

In theory, carrying a reusable bag or stainless steel drink bottles at all times is best practice for an eco friendly lifestyle. However, some of us do not always remember to take our eco friendly products on a quick supermarket run, or on a school trip to the zoo – meaning you may end up using non-recyclable products such as plastic bags or bottles. 

You may think the occasional plastic bag is fine when you usually make an effort to use sustainable products, or you might think to yourself 'it will break down' or 'one won't hurt the environment'.

If this is the case, you may want to take a look at these shocking statistics. The reality is that common waste items can take much longer to decompose than you might think – you might like to invest in an eco friendly bag or stainless steel water bottle after reading these!

Plastic bags

According to Clean Up Australia, single-use plastic bags could have a much longer life span than you do. In fact, they could live between 20 and 1,000 years! During the time they take to break down, they can sit in landfill producing greenhouse gases or harm animals through ingestion or suffocation.

Considering a single plastic bag can live up to 1,000 years, it could potentially continue harming numerous animals in its lengthy life cycle – and that's just one bag. Clean Up Australia states that an estimated 3.76 billion bags end up in Australian landfills each year, and a further 50 million end up in the litter stream. 

Plastic bottles

Plastic bottles can 'live' even longer –  up to 450 years, the Keep Australia Beautiful Council reports. Like bags, these are also dangerous to marine and land animals, and are among the most common rubbish item found on Clean Up Australia Day each year. Glass bottles are even worse – they can live up to 2 million years!

Other waste

Plastic bags and bottles are the obvious culprits of long life-spans, but what about 'organic' waste? Surely, a banana skin would break down in just a few days?

According to the Keep Australia Beautiful Council, banana skins can take up to a month to break down, and apple cores up to two months. So don't leave them in our environment – add them to the compost heap instead!