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How Long Does A Plastic Bag Take To Decompose (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 20 years

The plastic bags would take a long time to decompose completely. The plastic bags after some years would start separating into small pieces that are called microplastics. The plastic bags may take around 20 to 500 years to decompose fully. The sunlight exposure would also affect the decomposing time of plastic bags.

All the items made up of plastic would take many years as they are not biodegradable. The ultraviolet radiation would make the plastics break down into small pieces. The length of the photodegradation process for plastic bags would depend on the size, quality, and thickness of the plastic.

The normal thin plastic bags that are used for carrying the grocery would take around 20 to 50 years to fully decompose.

How Long Does A Plastic Bag Take To Decompose?

Plastic BagsTime
In years20 years
In months240 months

The plastic bags are not prepared with natural materials. Therefore, breaking the plastic would be very tough and requires lots of energy. Plastic can release many toxins into the soil that would disturb the nature and quality of the soil. The type of plastics would predict the time required for decomposing the plastics.

Biodegradable plastics may decompose faster than normal plastics. Bioplastics are not prepared using natural ingredients, but they can get decomposed faster than normal plastics. These bioplastics would take around 6 months to decompose fully. There are some plastics that are prepared using sugarcane or corn.

These plants based plastics may decompose faster than the plastics that are derived from petroleum. If the plastics don’t have UV rays exposure as per requirement, then it may take more than 500 years to decompose. The thick plastics that are used to pack or store big things may take around 450 to 1000 years to decompose.

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Plastic can be very dangerous for the health of humans. The toxins coming out from the plastics would cause asthma and pulmonary cancer. Non-biodegradable plastics may also cause issues of breathing and lungs diseases in humans.

Why Does A Plastic Bag Take This Long To Decompose?

The plastic bags would require external support such as UV rays to decompose faster. The presence of plastic-eating bacteria can also affect decomposing time. The plastic-eating bacteria would be capable of eating the plastic bags and would prevent the toxins produced by the plastic bags.

The decomposing process length would get affected by the environmental and climatic factors of the place. If the place experiences heavy rainfall, then the plastic bags may not get decomposed easily. The places with good sun days may help the plastic bags to decompose in 20 to 100 years.

The cold climatic places would experience a huge amount of toxins produced by the plastic bags as they would take much time to decompose. The amount of plastic would also affect the decomposing time length. A small number of plastic bags would decompose faster than a large number of plastic bags.

The location of the plastic bag would affect the decomposing time. If the plastic bags are placed under the first layer of the soil, then they would start decomposing faster after getting the sunlight in a few decades.

If the plastic bags are placed deep inside the soil, then the sunlight exposure may be less, and this would make the plastic decompose in 500 years. Plastic bags that are not plant-based would disturb the purity of air. Therefore, to prevent pollution, it’s important to reduce using plastic bags that are not natural.

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Conclusion

The plastic bags would take around 20 years to decompose if they get a good amount of sunlight. The plastic bags can break down into small pieces in a few years, but it would take much time to fully decompose in the soil. The other plastic items, such as plastic straws may take around 200 to 1000 years to decompose.

Plant-based plastic bags are not very harmful to the environment. If someone wants to decompose the plastic bags early, then they should place the plastic bags where the sunlight would fall directly on the soil.

Excess humidity or moisture would not allow the plastic bags to decompose properly. Therefore, people should not put the place plastic bags in the ocean or sea.

References

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X17301650
  2. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/136787790100400101
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