At Foodlum, we're passionate about preserving the planet for generations to come through informed, environmentally conscious decisions. We believe that humans have the natural inclination to do good, and if we are educated on the outcomes of our actions, we would change our consumption choices and decisions towards more positive outcomes.
If we as individuals, change our attitudes, behaviours and decisions, it's the best that we can do for our environment. Groups of passionate individuals become communities, communities incite positive change.
Here are some facts about our consumption choices and how these affect the environment accordingly.
How Long Does It Take Garbage to Decompose?
From an environmental perspective, the answer to this question of how long it takes various types of garbage to decompose is one of great importance. In fact, we should reduce consumption of products that generate waste materials that take a long time in landfills to completely decomposed. It should be noted that the rate of decomposition can depend upon landfill conditions.
Plastic Waste - Plastic products are very common in our modern life. According to an estimate, every year we use approximately 1.6 million barrels of oil just for producing plastic bottled water. Plastic waste is one of many types of wastes that take too long to decompose. Normally, plastic items take up to 1000 years to decompose in landfills. But plastic bags we use in our everyday life take 10-20 years to decompose, while plastic bottles take 450 years.
Disposable Diapers - Just in the USA alone, every year more than 18 billion disposable diapers are thrown away. These disposable diapers take approximately 550 years to decompose in landfills, thus underscoring the efforts of programs offering diaper and absorbent hygiene product recycling.
Aluminium Cans - Every day, more than 120,000 aluminium cans are recycled only in America. But, at the same time, every three-months, enough aluminium cans are thrown away that would rebuild the entire American Airlines commercial air fleet. Aluminium cans take 80-200 years in landfills to get completely decomposed.
Glass - Normally glass is very easy to recycle mainly for the fact that glass is made of sand. Simply breaking down glasses and melting those broken glasses we can produce new glass. But the shocking fact is that if glass is thrown away in landfills, it takes a million years to decompose. And according to some sources, it doesn’t decompose at all.
Paper Waste - Based on volume, paper is largest material found in landfills. Normally, it takes 2-6 weeks in landfills to completely decomposed. But if we recycle paper items, we can easily save lot of landfill space, while reducing the energy and virgin material requirements of making non-recycled paper.
Food Waste - By weight, food waste is the largest waste item in landfill. The time taken for food waste decomposing depends on the type of food. Normally, an orange peel takes 6 months but an apple core or a banana peel takes around one month to decompose.
Other Waste Items -
Problems With Plastic
Plastics are polymers derived from non-renewable petrochemicals. The low cost, lightweight, ease of manufacture and imperviousness make it one of the world’s most produced materials, and the favourite of the packaging industry. Products that were once made from renewable, natural materials, including cork, wood, stone, leather, metal, glass and ceramic are now made from plastic.
Humans have generated over 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic, since industrial scale production of synthetic materials began in the early 1950’s. Most plastics take more than 400 years to degrade and even then it does not biodegrade, it photogrades, meaning it requires sunlight to break down the plastic.
Most of this 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic is still with us today, either buried in landfill or as debris, polluting our oceans and waterways.
This has detrimental effects on marine animals, fish, birds and their natural ecosystems. Only 12% of plastic has been incinerated, and a pathetic 9% recycled (1) (2). Australians send over 1.7 million tonnes of plastic to landfill each year (3). We must do better.
The packaging industry generates more plastic waste than any other, with construction coming in second. In first world countries, the growth of plastic waste in landfill has increased 10 fold, from less than 1% in 1960 to more than 10% in 2005. The main driver behind this growth has been the move from reusable plastic products to single use packaging in the food industry.
Why Are Plastic Recycling Rates So Poor?
Unfortunately, plastic is much more difficult to recycle than materials like glass, aluminium or paper. It is often cheaper and easier to make plastic products from virgin resources than to recycle plastics into new products.
There are many different types of plastics, all made using different manufacturing techniques. Therefore combining different types of plastic renders it useless for later re-purposing. This means that all plastics must be carefully sorted by their resin code and plastic type before they can be recycled.
Whilst it may be cheap to produce and lightweight for transport, overall plastic has a poor recycling efficiency and doesn’t lend itself well to a circular economy. This is an expensive and time costly procedure, and is the main reason why recycling plastic is more expensive than manufacturing.
What Material Is Best For The Environment?
With so many different materials available, it's hard to know what is best for the environment, taking into account both the impact of the manufacturing and recycling process. We're firm believers in the Closed Loop System, meaning when we have used something, like a plastic bottle, or glass jar, we repurpose the item for future use. Rather than disposing (or even recycling something), reusing an item is the best way to reduce negative environmental impacts.
When you take into account the earth life of all materials, the environmental impact of debris, the carbon footprint and recycling efficiency, both stainless steel and aluminium come out on top. Both of these materials are able to be recycled repeatedly, without affecting its quality and integrity, unlike molecular-based materials such as plastics. The 93% energy saving when recycling aluminium makes it the most efficient material for a circular economy or closed loop system. If you want to know more, check out our blog post on this here.
We have become immune to consumable items being plastic packaged in every way imaginable.
Plastic litters the planet. The manufacturing, recycling and incineration process all negatively impact the environment.
Limiting your consumption through a closed loop system helps you escape the cycle of plastic usage. There will be small sacrifices to be made along the way, but every positive decision we make benefits the greater good of the environment.