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Could Your Packaging Outlive Mankind? – A Decomposition Timeline of Different Materials Revealed!

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Published date: 18 April 2023

Imagine living in a world polluted by the litter of our ancestors- as horrible as this may sound, it’s a reality for our descendants and wildlife.

Have you ever thought about the decomposition time of different materials? We’ve come up with a guide  covering sustainable packaging solutions and how you can make a positive impact on the environment. Discover how long a plastic bag takes to decompose, alongside other materials. 




How long does it take for glass to decompose?

According to sustainability experts, glass takes up to 4,000 years to 1 million years decompose, meanwhile some disagree and say the material doesn’t decompose at all! And, to put this into a timely perspective just over 1 million years ago humans were fighting off sabre-tooth tigers, discovering how to make fire and crafting tools.

While it may seem a little daunting that glass bottles and containers will live forever, it’s reassuring to know that such materials are reusable and infinitely recyclable, although glass is one of the most polluting materials to create and recycle. 


Plastic Coffee Pods

How long does it take for plastic coffee pods to decompose?

Many people rely on a kick of caffeine in the morning, but have you ever thought about the environmental impact that your innocent cup of coffee has? If you’re a bit of a coffee connoisseur, it might be time to think about investing in reusable coffee pods.

Recent data has proven that the average plastic coffee pod takes approximately 500 years to decompose, meanwhile 29,000 coffee pods end up in landfill every minute. That means that if we made a mountain from one year’s worth of used coffee pods, it would peak at approximately 361,000 miles high – reaching further away than the moon! That's enough waste to last for the next 20 generations. So, if the Georgians were responsible for this wastage, the mountain of landfill would still be around today!

Choose sustainable solutions like reusable stainless steel pods or compostable pods, which take under 2 months to break down, to reduce your environmental impact. 


Water Bottles and Plastic Cups 

How long does a plastic bottle take to decompose?

As the most-used material, simultaneously plastic is the most problematic. From plastic water bottles to plastic cups and containers – it’s estimated UK households produce a staggering 100 billion pieces of plastic each year, which included food packaging items, disposable cutlery and plastic coffee cups.

Nowadays, there are plenty of reusable plastic drinking bottles for when you’re on the go, at the gym, going on a walk or just sitting at your desk. Switching to these options, you can help prevent the worldwide production, use and potential waste of 7 billion plastic bottles each year. In the city of London, the average Londoner buys more than three plastic water bottles each week, that’s 175 bottles every year per person!

On the other hand, there are plenty of options out there to help reduce the amount of plastic you use now that biodegradable plastic items are available. Like all types of materials each one takes time to decompose, research has shown that biodegradable plastic takes approximately three to six months to fully breakdown in comparison to regular plastic that takes hundreds of years.


Plastic Straws 

How long does it take for plastic straws to decompose?

Think again before you order that fresh fruit smoothie with a straw – each plastic straw takes over 200 years to perish. Switch to reusable straws made of bamboo or steel to avoid plastic straws use and waste. There are also plenty of compostable and biodegradable options on the market, which takes between 2 weeks to 3 years to decompose depending on the materials and how it’s disposed of. 


Aluminium Cans 

How long does it take for aluminium to decompose?

Aluminium cans take around 80 to 100 years to fully decay, meaning a can one of your grandparents sipped out of could still be around today!

Fortunately, aluminium can be recycled endlessly, making it one of the most eco-friendly options provided you dispose and recycle of it properly. 


Cardboard - how long does cardboard take to decompose?

It goes without saying that at Challenge Packaging we’re big fans of cardboard — not just for its versatility and practically, but its sustainability too. Cardboard is widely recycled, easily reused and can decompose over a short  2 months.


How does litter decomposition affect global warming?

Reduce, reuse, recycle – the three-word mantra we’ve all been taught, but it’s yet to be ingrained in many people’s minds. Recent data has shown that only 44% of the UK’s plastic waste was recycled, while the remaining percentage went to a landfill for incineration.

While there is progress in people and their approach to handling waste, much of it ends up in rivers and oceans. Not only is this damaging to the environment and its surrounding animals and plants, during the decomposition process, plastic can release greenhouse gases, alongside methane and ethylene, which slowly break it down into smaller pieces – delaying the decomposition process.


Sustainable packaging solutions fit for all your needs.


'Comparing the longevity of plastics against more sustainable counterparts, like compostable materials, cardboard, and paper, shows clearly the impact being more mindful about material usage and waste can have. This is something we’re 100% committed to at Challenge Packaging to hit our goal of total sustainability by 2025.

Already, over 90% of our products are made of materials that are recyclable or biodegradable. This includes boxespaper bubble wrapvoidfill paper tapes and more.’

- Tom Wood, General Manager at Challenge Packaging


Support the planet by switching to sustainable packaging — shop online today





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