Varying materials deteriorate when exposed to the environment at very different rates, ranging from a few days to many thousands of years.
Now, you must be thinking! How long does it take for some of the most common materials to degrade, though?
In this blog, we'll examine several common materials', and their alternative methods of disposal. Let's first define decomposition's mechanisms and the variables that influence it.
How do biodegradable materials disintegrate?
To begin with, decomposition is the breaking down of materials by microbes, like bacteria and fungi. Temperature, water, and oxygen are the key variables that influence decomposition.
1: Effect of temperature:Up until a point where it becomes too hot for them to exist, a warmer environment encourages microbial multiplication, and accelerates material degradation. The process of decomposition will be slowed down or stopped altogether, in a chilly environment.
2: Effect of water:The organisms that break down materials need both a warm temperature and water to thrive, thus generally speaking, a wetter environment will promote a faster breakdown. As with temperature, there must be a precise balance since too much moisture would force the air out of a material, making it impossible for organisms that cause degradation to thrive.
3:Effect of oxygen:Organisms need oxygen to breathe since they are the ones, who break down the things that disintegrate. This element is frequently lacking at landfills, which is one of the reasons why materials can decompose in landfills much more slowly, than if they were on the surface.
It's important to keep in mind that some materials are non-decomposable!
When we refer to certain materials as "decaying," such as glass, plastic, and metal, we actually mean that they are disintegrating. These breakdowns rely on processes like photo degradation, oxidation, and abrasion, rather than decomposers like bacteria and fungus, because they often don't consume inorganic material.
What is the alternative to disposing of solid waste?
It is obvious that throwing everything into a landfill and waiting millions of years for it to degrade, is not a sustainable waste management strategy, especially, since the things that decay the slowest, are frequently recyclable:
A glass can take almost 1 million years, to break down. It, however, may be recycled continuously without losing any quality, if it is handled properly.
Plastics may be turned into new goods multiple times, before they start to degrade, even if they are not indefinitely recyclable.
While, it may take more than a century to decompose, aluminium, like glass, is infinitely recyclable. Despite, being one of the waste products that can be recycled the most readily, it nevertheless degrades in landfills.
Similar to plastic, paper can only be recycled so many times before it loses its usability, but this is still preferable to five months in a landfill.
· Rapidly decomposing materials
These can also be treated more effectively. Fruit peels and vegetable trimmings may decompose over the course of a few weeks or months, but it is much preferable to separate them out as Organics/Compost, than dump them in the landfills. For that purpose, organic waste converters or food waste recyclers can be used.
Does it matter if a material decomposes quickly, slowly, or not at all?
No matter how quickly, slowly, or completely a substance decomposes, adding it to landfill waste streams still has negative effects.Vegetable trimmings, for example, can produce excessive amounts of methane when left to degrade, in the unnatural environment of a landfill, contaminating water and other resources.
Therefore, it is best practice to implement sustainable measures, such as composting or food recyclers, to convert waste into useful soil conditioner.
How can we assist?
Netsol Water, the global solution provider to water, wastewater and solid waste problems, manufacturers a wide range of organic waste recyclers and food waste recyclers, to recycle the solid waste, and convert it into useful fertilizer to enhance soil quality, and condition it.