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A selection of items, including an aluminum can, paper towels, and a plastic bottle
  • Sheet of paper towel: 2 to 4 weeks
  • Apple core: 1 to 2 months
  • Banana Peel: 2 years
  • Cigarette butt: at least ten years
  • Steel can: 50 years
  • Small potato-chip bag: 75 to 80 years
  • Plastic straw: Up to 200 years
  • Aluminum can: 200 to 500 years
  • Plastic bottle: 450 years
  • Disposable diaper: 550 years
  • Monofilament fishing line: 600 years
  • Chewing gum: 100s of years

*Over time, nonorganic items break down into smaller fragments, and those pieces remain in the environment. Further, the length of time it takes for something to decompose depends on weather, size of the object, how the item was disposed of, and other factors.

This originally appeared as “The High Cost of Litter” in the January/February 2020 print issue of Experience Life.

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