How Long It Takes Trash To Decompose [Infographic]

How Long It Takes Trash To Decompose [Infographic]
Image: iStock

It can be difficult to grasp how long fifty years are without context. So when you hear that the number gets filed away as “a long time” which isn’t helpful at all if you’ve also filed away a millennium as “a long time”. Being told a styrofoam cup takes fifty years to decompose is easily forgettable. Being told that a styrofoam cup takes the lifetime of an African elephant to decompose is a fun little bit of trivia.

Some things take a long time. Rubbish decomposing is one of those things.

It takes 19 days to binge watch every episode of Law and Order – presumably without sleep. That just so happens to be about how long it takes for a paper towel or banana peel to decompose. This is the sort of vital context that have given so that we can understand just what impact the things we throw away are having.

A kind and generous quiz-master at pub trivia may be forgiving enough to allow “about as long as it takes a disposable diaper to decompose” as an answer for “how long did the Han Dynasty last?” Or maybe just a very odd one.

Either way, it’s interesting to see everyday items compared against historical events.



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