Landfill Lifespans: How Long Does Trash Last?

Landfill Lifespans: How Long Does Trash Last?

A large portion of the western world deals with trash like this: a few garbage bins in the house collect trash throughout the week. When those bins fill, someone takes them outside and dumps the contents into a larger bin.

Once a week, on trash day, a large truck comes by, extends its metal arms towards the bin, and collects everything inside. The trash is carried off and away, out of our lives. But not out of existence.

It’s strange to realize it, but many of the small, seemingly inconsequential objects that we pick up from the store actually outlive us, some by incomprehensible lengths of time, especially if they end up in a landfill.

For example, glass, one of the easiest materials to recycle, is estimated to last at least one million years in a landfill. When you think about the fact that modern-day humans have been around for about 200,000 years, that fact gets pretty mind-boggling.

But that’s just one example. How long do other things last? And does all our garbage outlive us?

Landfill Lifespans:

Paper Waste – Starting at the low end of the spectrum is paper. Paper goods can usually be recycled, although if they’ve got food residue on them, they become garbage. These goods usually take between two and six weeks to decompose in a landfill. Not bad!

Waxed Drink Cartons – These often cause confusion when it comes to recycling, but the wax lining on cardboard cartons makes them landfill material. There, they tend to take about five years to decompose. Still pretty good!

Aluminum Cans – Cans that once contained soda or tea, for example, do decently well in landfills too, but the average aluminum can still lives longer than many humans. In a landfill, these cans typically take between eighty and 250 years to decompose. Hmmm…not great.

Batteries – Have you ever thought about switching to rechargeable batteries? It might be worth it. Non-rechargeable batteries, when thrown in a landfill, are estimated to take between one and five hundred years to fully decompose, depending on the type. And, even if they do biodegrade, they often release harmful chemicals into the environment. Oof.

Plastics – Plastic is easily one of the most polluting materials in existence. Though its lifespan in a landfill is shorter than that of glass, it is far less consistently-recyclable. #1 and #2 plastics can always be recycled, but many other forms of plastic cannot. On average, plastic in a landfill lasts about a thousand years, although researchers suspect that some types of plastics never decompose at all. Ouch.

Why Does This Matter? Well, it wouldn’t, if there weren’t so many of us on the planet. But the fact is, almost all of the glass and plastic that has ever been put into a landfill is still there. A soda bottle your great-great-grandfather drank out of as a child might still be lying around somewhere, and might last over a million years. The more waste we generate, the less space on the planet we have for it, and the less space we have for ourselves. 

Why Biodegradable Toilet Paper: There are many reasons we started making toilet paper out of bamboo, but one of the reasons is that it's fully biodegradable.

While most toilet paper will break down eventually, whether in a landfill or in a sewer, our toilet paper does so without releasing any chemicals. Some TP brands use chemicals like formaldehyde and chlorine in their manufacture, which get released into the earth when the toilet paper biodegrades.

Not ours though! RB Life Brand’s bamboo toilet paper breaks down completely, with no toxic chemicals or carcinogens left behind.

Join in on the decision to Wipe Responsibly, and make the switch to bamboo!

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