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5 everyday trash items that’ll take lifetimes to decompose

5 everyday trash items that’ll take lifetimes to decompose

nolisoli denr agos trash

We’ve said it many times: Plastic is bad for the environment. And we—with so many others—have harped on and on about how plastic takes forever to decompose, and that even then at its micro-state it could still be harmful.

Well, guess what. That apparently isn’t the worst. DENR Agos, also known as the Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Management Program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, recently posted an infographic on their Facebook page that basically juxtaposes our human lifetime versus the lifetime of our trash.

Some items we’ve waged war against are on the list—think plastic bags (10-20 years), styrofoam cups (50 years), and tetra packs (5 years)—but they all still fall within the human lifetime range. So just to put things into perspective, here are some of the trash we produce daily that will take generations to decompose:

Plastic bottles — 450 years

nolisoli denr agos trash plastic bottles
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

While the plastic bag only takes a third or so of our lives to decompose, the plastic bottle—yes, that one you’re holding right now, half-full with your favorite fizzy drink, or that one you just chucked into the bin after emptying it of water/juice/what-have-you—will take a whopping 450 years to break down.

Now you might say, “What else am I supposed to do, the bottles are already here and they’re going to be bought and used and thrown away anyway.” Well, instead of just throwing them away with no further purpose afterwards, you could turn them into eco-bricks.

Diapers and sanitary napkins — 500 years

nolisoli denr agos trash diaper
Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Your baby—and their babies, and their babies’ babies—will long be dead and their dirty nappies will still be decomposing somewhere in the earth. Same goes for your sanitary pads. Lucky for us, there are a lot of sustainable alternatives resurfacing, like cloth pads or pasador, and cloth diapers. For the ladies, a more sustainable (and not to mention cost-efficient) alternative to pads would be using menstrual cups.

Sachets — 500 to 1,000 years

You might think you’re being a practical traveler by “packing light” with these sachets, but in truth, you’re just contributing to the waste problem. Instead of filling your toiletry bag with sachets of shampoos or soaps, opt for small containers you can refill.

PVC Cards — 1,000 years

More reason to take really good care of your Beep cards and IDs. Not only is it a hassle for you if you lose them, it’ll also be terrible for Mother Nature. So hold on to those cards like your life depends on it. Or like our history depends on it—keep them as mementos. Who knows? They might make good artifacts in the far future.

Glass bottle — 1,000,000 years

nolisoli denr agos trash bottle
Photo courtesy of Unsplash

What’s great about glass bottles though is that even if technically it is trash, you can still very much reuse and recycle them. Glass bottles are refillable, and for the most part, can be used for a variety of purposes—some not even including what it was meant or bought for.

Check out the full list of trash here:


Next time we buy something, let’s be more mindful about the trash it will produce. Let’s opt for items we can recycle or reuse. This way, hopefully, we won’t have to wait generations for our waste to disappear.


Read more:

Green footnotes for sustainable traveling

What is ‘slow fashion’ and why should you care?

Reducing your carbon footprint may be easier than you thought

To smokers, your cigarette butts are hurting the ocean, too

LOOK: Hundreds of plastic bottles are crammed on a ledge of a building in Manila


Read more by Pauline Miranda:

Why you shouldn’t be ashamed of using second-hand items, VP’s daughter or not

Queen Elizabeth II joins the fight against plastic

You could be eating plastic right now

This Boracay hotel just won a sustainable design award

Thinking of going zero-waste? You’re not alone

Writer: PAULINE MIRANDA © 2020. Hinge Inquirer Publications, Inc.


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