While certain goods, such as paper towels, degrade in a matter of weeks, others that we toss away on a regular basis can take our whole lifetime—as well as the lifetimes of our children, grandkids, and great-grandchildren—to decompose. Petroleum products such as oil and gasoline will remain liquid for hundreds of years if not mixed with something to absorb their vapors before they harden into rocks.
The moment you throw away your soda bottle, it's over. There is no going back. It has become acid that leaches metals from your body, chemicals that destroy cells, and calories from its original contents. All of this enters your environment through landfill sites or incinerators. They don't just go out into empty space or escape into thin air.
Landfills are becoming more toxic due to pollution from neighboring industries and increased numbers of vehicles using them as parking lots. Incineration produces dioxins when fossil fuels are burned without special provisions being made to reduce emissions of these pollutants. Dumping garbage at sea can lead to oceanic plastic pollution that can block light and heat from reaching other organisms, or even kill wildlife by ingesting them while eating contaminated seafood.
All of this means that decomposing waste isn't just an environmental issue, it's a health issue as well. The longer something takes to decompose, the greater the exposure people have to it.
11 It usually takes two to six weeks for a landfill to degrade entirely, but it might take decades depending on moisture levels within the waste. Recycling paper goods saves a lot of landfill space while also lowering the amount of energy and raw material used in the production of non-recycled paper. Plastic bottles can be recycled again and again.
12 Landfills are big problems for environmental health because methane gas is produced by rotting organic matter such as food scraps and garbage in landfills. Methane is 23 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20 year time span. This is why it's important that you don't throw away food next to your trash or litter around the neighborhood. That way, it will be taken out of circulation by your sanitation department instead of going into the ground where it contributes to global warming.
13 The main reason it takes so long for things to break down in landfills is there's just so much of it. The world's population is growing and using more products every day. This means more input for landfills to recycle and less time before they fill up with dead organisms and make more methane.
14 Decomposition in landfills is slowed down by oxygen deprivation and anaerobic conditions. Oxygen is needed by microorganisms in order to break down certain chemicals and processes in the body that produce energy without consuming oxygen.
The rate at which an object decomposes into the ground is determined by its fundamental components, the percentage of biodegradable compounds in it, and the location where it is allowed to disintegrate. Due to the lack of sunlight, moisture, and air exposure, the decomposition rates of goods in landfills are astoundingly slow. Even after decades in a landfill, garbage still remains because it does not break down completely even though microorganisms are able to consume most of it.
The main factor that affects the rate of decomposition in landfills is the amount of oxygen present in them. Oxygen is needed by bacteria for respiration and therefore they cannot grow without it. Landfill gases include approximately 20 percent oxygen so if the level of oxygen decreases, this will inhibit bacterial growth and cause the degradation of solid wastes to slow down or even stop. Other factors such as temperature, humidity, acidity, size of particles, and type of material (such as wood vs. plastic) also affect the rate of decomposition.
Decomposition begins with the breakdown of organic materials into smaller molecules by enzymes produced by bacteria. The next step is the uptake of those molecules by other organisms, which are called oxidizers. Finally, the remaining material is converted into carbon dioxide and water. Bacteria play a major role in all three steps of decomposition. They produce enzymes that break down large molecules into smaller ones that can be used by other organisms.
Between 2 and 6 weeks Another popular home item that is highly recyclable is paper. It decomposes in 2 to 6 weeks, however it may also be recycled and transformed into a new product. Paper fibers may be recycled up to six times before becoming too weak to be utilized. When recycling paper, certain items such as coupons, maps, and books should not be mixed with regular household paper because they contain special chemicals which prevent them from being recycled again.
When paper breaks down it becomes part of the environment. Bacteria in landfills can break down some of the paper you throw away, releasing methane gas. The wood pulp used to make paper can be burned for heat or composted into soil supplementer. Recycling paper saves energy, reduces our dependence on fossil fuels, and helps protect our environment.
Paper has been around for many years and will likely remain so for even more years to come. It is an important component of our daily lives that allows us to communicate, store information, and consume products. As long as we continue to use paper as we do today, it is safe to assume that it will be available when needed.
Paper takes around 2–6 weeks to disintegrate in a landfill. Paper is the most common type of garbage found in landfills nowadays (paper makes up for around 25 percent of landfill waste and around 33 percent of municipal waste). The main component of paper that causes it to break down so slowly is its cellulose content: paper contains about 40–50 percent cellulose.
The cellulose fibers in paper can't be decomposed by regular household chemicals such as bleach or detergents. They instead need enzymes to break them down into carbon dioxide and water. Animals also use enzymes to digest the cellulose in paper, which is why garbage made from paper doesn't smell. However, even with enzymes, paper takes a long time to decompose.
When paper gets wet, the cellulose fibers expand and make the paper heavier. This is why newspapers take longer to degrade than other types of trash. If the newspaper material is mixed in with other wastes in a landfill, then it will add more weight to the pile and increase the time it takes for the garbage to break down.
Landfills are designed to keep organic materials on the bottom level of the site- this is called the "composting zone"- but if there's a leak in the landfill gas collection system, then oxygen can penetrate into the center of the mound where it can reach hot spots and cause an explosion.