How Long Does It Take for Straws to Decompose

How Long Does It Take for Straws to Decompose

If you have used a plastic straw while out at a restaurant, it is likely that you have not given much thought to what will happen to your straw after you are finished using it.

In most cases, straws are thrown into the garbage and sent to landfills. Unfortunately, even if people did take the time to recycle straws, many recycling centers have a difficult time recycling them due to their size.

So, if your plastic straw ends up in a landfill, how long will it take to decompose? The answer may shock you considering how small this object is.

Decomposition of Straws and Other Plastics

It may come as a surprise, but plastic straws can take two hundred years to decompose. That is a very long time, especially when you consider that Americans, according to NPS.Gov, use roughly 500 million straws per day. That number of straws would fill 125 full-size school buses per day.

WWF, an Australian organization, has provided the time frames it takes for several other plastic items to decompose below.

  • 6-Pack plastic rings
    • 400 years
  • Plastic water bottle
    • 450 years
  • Coffee pods
    • 500 years
  • Plastic cup
    • 450 years
  • Disposable diapers
    • 500 years
  • Plastic toothbrush
    • 500 years

Decomposition of Compostable Straws

How long do compostable straws take to break down compared to plastic straws? A compostable or biodegradable straw can take anywhere from a few weeks (in an electric composter) to a year to break down. That is a huge decrease compared to the time plastic straws take.

What Can Be Done?

So, now you may be wondering what can even be done about this. There is more than one way that we can fix this and many other issues caused by plastics.  

Some options include:

  • Stop using single-use plastics, i.e., plastic straws
  • Use biodegradable or compostable products, i.e., biodegradable straws
  • Purchase and use reusable products

Do Your Part to Fix the Issue Now

Once you have made one of the changes above you can start to help solve the current issues we have with single-use plastics.

There are a lot of programs and groups out there that you can get involved with to help clean up plastics from our oceans and other bodies of water. These groups often arrange times to clean up our shores.

If there is not a local program or group in your area you can choose to start one yourself, or just take the time to go clean up around a local body of water.

Cleaning up the coastlines can have a huge impact because according to CondorFerries.Co.UK, there are 7.5 million straws on US coastlines. They also estimate between 437 million and 8.3 billion straws on the coastlines around the entire globe.

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