How Long Does It Take a Plastic Bottle to Biodegrade?

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Plastic bottles are everywhere: from water bottles, to soda bottles, and even to reusable bottles, every year there are more and more of them filling up the landfills. We know that they’re not immediately biodegradable, but how long does it take for a plastic bottle to really biodegrade?

Different kinds of plastic can degrade at different times, but the average time for a plastic bottle to completely degrade is at least 450 years. It can even take some bottles 1000 years to biodegrade! That’s a long time for even the smallest bottle. 90% of bottles aren’t even recycled. Makes you think twice about that water or soda, right? Bottles made with Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE) will never biodegrade.

And there are even more reasons to lay off the plastic bottles: about 1.5 million barrels of oil are used every year to make the bottles, and even more oil is burned transporting them. Most of the time, the water inside the bottles has more contaminants than regular old tap water, meaning you could be drinking some serious problems. The EPA has more strict standards on tap water than the FDA does for bottled water, which is something to think about when you’re thirsty! And those reusable bottles? Make sure you’re not a collector, because those will never biodegrade.


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  1. Ethan Thorpe says:

    thank you this really helped with my school work. But the question is why DO people litter. I cant remember the last time I littered

  2. Hamisi Tsama Mkuzi says:

    Has really helped me a lot… cool information

    Hamisi Tsama Mkuzi
    Bsc Environmental Science (pwani university)

  3. jamie arnold says:

    My question is, what is the process of biodegrade… does a coke bottle look like a coke bottle in 1000 years or is it some kind of different substance?

  4. Karleigh says:

    I am a recycler of PET. We make fibre and rPET from the plastic bottles we collect – in a nutshell.

    If we could get the community to recycle more – take the “90% of PET” (different stats in different countries) out of the waste stream and send it to recyclers for reuse, this would eliminate it sitting on the dump, right?

    Glass bottles take an average of 1 million years to biodegrade (i.e. never), Paper 2-5 months, Cotton 6 months, tetra pak 5 years, tin cans 50-100 years, so why not use PET and recycle it into the correct waste stream for reuse?

    Whats left to do? RECYCLE!!!

    If people were forced to recycle, we would have NO PROBLEM with PET filling landfills!! Right?

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