Ecology

How long does cotton take to degrade

The cotton industry has been one of the most important until the 20th century and today it continues to have special importance, since it is used for the manufacture of clothing, towels, bedding, among other textile and hygiene products and, In addition, it is used for the production of oil from its seed. Its cultivation is among the most polluting due to the pesticides used in them, affecting not only the environment, but also the health of the workers.

As we have said, there are many products that are made from it, but once we throw them away because they cannot be used anymore or it no longer serves us, what is the degradation time of cotton? This is a very common question among those who care about the environment and want to decide what products they use and how they use them based on their environmental impact. Other questions related to this are: what is the most environmentally friendly fabric? How long does cotton clothing last? How long does it take for a cotton cloth bag to degrade?

How long does it take for cotton to degrade?

The decomposition of cotton in comparison with the raw material used for the manufacture of other fabrics or garments, is short-lived. That is why garments made with cotton are more environmentally friendly, although this does not mean that the processes to get the cotton or to manufacture the garments are, since these generate a strong impact on the environment. .

However, when it comes to the degradation time of this raw material, it could be said that it is respectful with the environment, so the question is: how long does it take for cotton fabric to degrade? Whether it is a t-shirt or a cotton cloth bag, these objects usually have a degradation time of approximately 2 months in the environment, but it will depend on the climate of the place and the size and thickness of the cotton cloth.

For those who wonder how long cotton clothes last, the answer is that if you take good care of them when using them, when storing them in the closet and when washing them, it can last you many years, although of course you will see the wear of the fabric. However, once it is thrown away and if it ends up in the environment or on the ground in a landfill, it will take at least 2 months to degrade.

Now that you know how long it takes for cotton to decompose , we want to go into more detail about the environmental impact that cotton produces .

  • In the process of growing cotton plants, a large amount of chemicals and pesticides are used , many of them being harmful to health.
  • But not only the cotton industry is harmful to health, it also has significant environmental impacts. The indiscriminate use of chemicals and pesticides is due to the fact that the seeds are less and less resistant to pests or these pests become increasingly resistant to said pesticide products and, as one of the consequences, secondary pests have appeared that also fight with more aggressive chemicals and pesticides.
  • Ground and surface water bodies are also polluted by excess fertilizer with many chemicals, especially nitrogens, making this water unfit for human consumption and also directly affects the biodiversity of the territory.
  • In addition, large amounts of water are required to manufacture the garments . For example, to make jeans, approximately 12,000 liters of water are needed.
  • In addition, the land is subjected to intensive activity causing its desertification .
  • Finally, add that the process from when the cotton leaves the field until the desired product is obtained (a cotton shirt, a cotton disk, a swab, a cotton cloth bag, etc.), have been consumed large amounts of energy and fuel for the operation of machinery and transport, generating greenhouse gas emissions that will accumulate in the atmosphere.
Where is the cotton thrown away

All those cotton products, such as make-up remover cotton pads, cotton buds, clothes …, must go to the gray container . In this container those residues that cannot be recycled or used for compost are discarded, ending up in sanitary landfills or landfills.

Also all those garments that are in good condition, but we no longer use them because they do not fit us, can be deposited in special clothing collection containers , which sometimes belong to associations that collect them for the most disadvantaged people.

The degradation time of the waste can vary greatly, depending on the material itself but also depending on the conditions to which it is exposed (for example, rain, extreme sun, etc.). Do you know which are the materials that take the least time to degrade ? Here are some examples:

  • Paper or cardboard mainly composed of cellulose takes 1 year to degrade.
  • How long does it take for a can to disappear? An aluminum can can take up to 10 years to degrade. Polypropylene glasses need the same time.
  • Tetrabrik containers have a degradation time of about 30 years.
  • The steel and plastic used for lighters can take up to 100 years to decompose.

Materials that take the longest to degrade

The decomposition time of the materials that take less time to disappear has already passed, but what are the materials that take the longest to degrade? Let’s see some of them, also being the ones that most pollute the planet.

  • Plastic bags can take up to 150 years to degrade.
  • From 500 to 1000 years is how long the batteries take, which must be treated correctly since they are very polluting.
  • PET bottles take approximately 1000 years to disappear.
  • Glass is one of the materials that takes the longest to degrade, lasting up to 4,000 years. The good thing about this material is that it is 100% recyclable.

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