Water ResourcesPollution Prevention
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How Long Litter Lasts

Ever wondered how long litter will be around if no one picks it up? Litter and illegal dumping are serious problems. The table below shows the average number of years it takes for common litter items to break down. Actual time varies depending on the conditions under which the litter is breaking down, so may be higher or lower than indicated below.

Litter Item 

Time to Break Down 

 Orange or Banana Peel      Up to 2 years
 Cigarette Butts  1 to 5 years
 Plastic Coated Paper, e.g., candy wrappers      5 years
 Plastic Bags  10 to 20 years
 Nylon Fabric  30 to 40 years
 Leather  Up to 50 years
 Tin Cans  50 years
 Aluminum Cans and Tabs  80 to 100 years
 Plastic Six-Pack Holders  100 years
 Glass Bottles  1,000,000 years
 Plastic Bottles  Indefinite
 Plastic Foam, e.g., Styrofoam  Indefinite