How Long Does It Take Waste To Decompose In Landfills?



For many larger cities there are no great options for getting rid of garbage. Landfills have become massive mountains of old furnitureappliances and other types of used junk that will one day be monuments to society’s throw away mentality for generations. 


From a sustainability perspective, wondering how long it takes various types of garbage to decompose is the first step in determining what items we need to consider reducing consumption.


It is sobering to realize just how long it takes for what we buy on a daily basis to break down. Let’s find out how long the major waste categories take to decompose.


🟢 Wooden Furniture 

Standard wooden chair: it takes 13 years to decompose in a landfill.  

Painted wood: it increases the decomposition time even further. 


🟢 Mattress Waste 

Some take as long as 80 to 120 years to decompose and they usually float on top of dumps because of their flexible construction.  


🟢 Plastic Waste 

Every year we use approximately 1.6 million barrels of oil just for producing plastic water bottles and they can take more than 450 years to decompose. In a landfill, plastic can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. 

Just think, the plastic bags you get from the grocery store are only in use for a couple of hours, but will end up sitting in a landfill for up to a thousand years! 


🟢 Clothing Waste 

Wool clothing can take up to 5 years to break down.  

Nylon fabrics can take 30-40 years to break down.  

Leather shoes can take up to 40 years.  

Rubber-boot soles can take up to 80 years.  

Even cotton can take up to 3 months.  

Disposable diapers will take 250-500 years to decompose in a landfill. 


🟢 Aluminum Can Waste 

Every minute there are more than 120,000 aluminum cans being recycled in America and each one will take 80-200 years to completely decompose in a landfill. 


🔋 Did you know? Even aluminum batteries take over 100 years to completely decompose. 


🟢 Glass Waste 

When glass is thrown in landfills, it takes millions of years to decompose. And according to some, it doesn’t decompose at all. 


🟢 Paper Waste 

Thankfully with paper, it only takes 2 – 6 weeks to completely decompose in a landfill. But, based on volume, paper is the largest element in American landfills, taking up a lot of space and energy. If we recycle paper items, we can easily save a lot of landfill space. 


🟢 Electronic Waste 

Electronic devices were made to resist decomposition, forever. The glass they might contain takes 1-2 million years to decompose. 


🟢 Miscellaneous Waste 

There is a lot of misleading information out there about how long it takes for waste to decompose. Here are the numbers we have found: 

  • Plywood: 1-3 years
  • Painted board: 13 years 
  • Cardboard: 2 months 
  • Styrofoam: Does not biodegrade 
  • Canvas products: 1 year 
  • Lumber: 10-15 years 
  • Tinfoil: Does not biodegrade 
  • Cigarette Butts: 10-12 years 
  • Monofilament Fishing Line: 600 years 
  • Sanitary Pads: 500-800 years 



At The Eco Fairy, our goal is to help you build a more sustainable life by offering you a line of reusable products. We offer products that last and that will help you reduce the amount of plastic you use.    








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