10 Longest Lasting Items in Our Landfills

As time goes on, more and more landfills continue to be created worldwide as we endeavor to find new locations to store our trash and various discarded objects. While efforts are being made to promote recycling programs and a range of other methods to limit the amount of garbage we’re putting into the earth, they’ve only been able to produce limited success. This is because so many of our products are designed for single-use purposes and can take massive amounts of time to decompose. This article intends to explore ten of the most long-lasting items that are added to our landfills every day, according to Science Focus.

We hope that this list can help provide you with a better understanding of why we must act now to help protect the integrity of the environment. If you’d like to find out even more about the impact single-use products can have on the environment and what you can do to help keep the planet clean for future generations, please consider checking out the range of expertly crafted resources and top-quality sustainable products proudly provided by PlantSwitch today.

Which Items Make Up Most of Our Landfill?

Landfills are usually municipal solid waste facilities that collect and bury anything that isn’t delivered to municipal recovery facilities (MRFs). 

Food waste, paper, glass, plastic, and other items that could generally be composted or recycled fall into this category.

What is the Most Typical Material Encountered in Landfills in the United States?

According to The World Counts, “paper accounts for around 26% of total waste at landfills“.

The most common item found in MSW landfills is plain old paper. Newspapers alone can occupy up to 13% of landfill space in the United States.

Related: Hemp Plastic: 5 Advantages for Bio-Degradable Products 

What Type of Gases Are Produced in Landfills?

Many different gases can be found in landfill gas. 90 to 98 percent of landfill gas is methane and carbon dioxide.
Nitrogen, oxygen, ammonia, sulfides, hydrogen, and other gases make up the remaining 2 to 10%.

Glass Bottles

The first object to note on this list of trash that spends the most time decomposing in landfills is glass bottles, which can take up to one million years to break down completely. This highly problematic length of time is why people must remember to recycle their glass bottles and other glass products to keep them out of landfills. The problem with this is that most glass is actually not recycled properly if at all due to the cost. Much like most metals, glass has the benefit of being able to be recycled over and over again into new products, so there’s no good reason that it should ever end up in a garbage dump.

Plastic Bags

The second object on this list of the longest-lasting items in landfills is plastic bags, which shouldn’t be surprising for anyone that’s been paying attention to their local news over the past several years. Several countries and states have taken steps to begin regulating and even outright banning different types of single-use plastic products, including plastic bags, which can take up to 500 years to break down. Other countries have enacted higher taxing policies on plastic bag usage. Environmentally-minded individuals are pushing for further reductions of single-use plastic bag usage around the globe.

Plastic Bottles

The third object on this list of longest-lasting trash is unlikely to surprise anyone; plastic bottles. Plastic beverage containers can take about 450 years to break down completely, though many of them are likely to take even longer. Alongside other plastic products like straws, single-use cutlery, and more, plastic has proven itself to be a major factor negatively impacting the planet’s health. Not only does it produce significant health hazards for both humans and animals, but it also contaminates food and water sources when it finally does break down. 

Related: States With Promising Single-Use Plastic Bans

Disposable Diapers

Much like plastic bottles, disposable diapers take approximately 450 years to break down. Since disposable diapers were invented back in the late 1940s, that means the first ones ever used are still rotting away in a landfill somewhere to this very day and will remain there for hundreds of years to come. As gross and annoying as some people may find them, we all know the solution to this particular problem; it’s time to go back to reusable cloth diapers.

Aluminum Cans

Number five on this top-ten list of longest-lasting trash is tin cans, which can take approximately 200 years to break down completely. Like glass bottles and other glass products, cans can be easily recycled and should always be disposed of correctly to keep them from ending up in a landfill. Additionally, anything that comes in aluminum can also be made available to consumers in a glass container. 

Do you want to do your part to protect the environment and care for the earth? Check out the wide selection of top-quality, environmentally sustainable products proudly presented by the industry experts at PlantSwitch today to learn more.

Rubber-Soled Shoes

Rubber-soled shoes take up the sixth spot on the list, though some evidence suggests they deserve a much higher ranking. According to Science Focus, the time it takes for rubber-soled shoes to break down in a landfill is somewhere between 50 and 80 years. However, other research has indicated that the material found in certain brands of trainers can last in landfills for up to 1,000 years. Always be sure to look up shoe recycling programs before tossing them in the trash. Several businesses- like Nike- have developed shoe recycling initiatives to reuse old shoe materials and keep them out of landfills.

Tin Cans

According to research, tin cans take approximately 50 years to decompose. However, much like with products contained in aluminum cans, tin can products can also be stored in a range of other containers, like glass. But even more importantly, canned foods can be avoided altogether by purchasing fresh, local ingredients for your household.


Clothing fabrics can take up to 40 years to fully break down, if not more. Before tossing your clothes in the trash, consider donating to local charities or shelters or even repurposing them into cleaning rags, reusable shopping bags, and other valuable household items. Several businesses and retailers like H&M have even begun collecting old clothes to refurbish them into new products in exchange for credit!

Related: Consumers Want Sustainable Products

Plastic Film Wrapping

The next item on this list is plastic film, including product wrappers, clingfilm, chip bags, and more. These take at least 30 years to break down when disposed of but can thankfully be replaced by a range of environmentally sustainable products like Etee and Abeego Beeswax paper. A lot of work needs to be done to help tone down the use of plastic packaging, so it’s the job of consumers to demand change from both businesses and legal policymakers to help protect the environment.

Paper Coffee Cups

The final item on this list is disposable paper coffee cups, which typically take up to 20 years to break down fully. Thankfully there is an easy workaround to using these products; always carry a reusable bottle, cup, or tumbler for your to-go drinks, and invest in a few mugs for your regular office coffee.

Do you want to help protect the planet through top-quality, environmentally sustainable products that you can use for years to come? Feel free to explore the range of spectacular goods provided by the industry experts at PlantSwitch to learn more.

How Are Old Landfills Used Today?

Community-Beneficial Landfill Parks

One of the most common applications is converting a landfill into a community park. 

The possibilities are unlimited, from green fields to basketball courts to golf courses. 

One of the most well-known landfill parks is located near Virginia Beach. This 165-acre tourist attraction, dubbed “Mount Trashmore,” is built on compacted layers of solid garbage and new soil. 

Man-made mountains, lakes, playgrounds, skate parks, and walking and bike pathways may now be found on the covered landfill.

Landfill Energy Projects Help the Environment

Former landfills are frequently converted to landfill-gas-to-energy facilities. 

It’s not novel to generate energy from waste gas, and converted electricity is often put back into the grid to power anything from our houses to cars.

Several solar panel farms have also been built on top of abandoned landfills. New Jersey has taken on several solar projects and is generating renewable energy from formerly a municipal waste in Burlington County.

However, concerns are associated with building on a closed landfill that prevents this from becoming a common practice.

The ground changes and becomes uneven as rubbish decomposes, posing a severe problem with complex solar arrays. 

However, installing solar or wind energy projects is a terrific method to benefit from these underutilized places if an energy supplier is prepared to take on the effort.

Related: Bioplastic vs. Plastic: Are Bioplastics Really Better?

New Natural Habitats

When landfills are no longer in use, environmentalists advocate for them to be transformed into wildlife habitats.

Groups explore several soil plots on the capped landfill to see if they can support native plant life before building a sanctuary. Native trees, plants, and grasses are brought in and let to develop on their own after those locations have been identified.

The Alliance Landfill in Taylor, Pennsylvania, is one such case. Plants were planted in the best areas, and over two years, the site attracted a growing number of birds and other creatures.

The Wildlife Habitat Council supports landfill wildlife habitats like the one in Alliance and encourages conservation efforts on these sites to continue.

Do you want to contribute your grain of salt and save the planet by obtaining on-demand sustainable and biodegradable alternatives for single-use plastics? Send us a message to talk about our safe and biodegradable solutions for your business and home!

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