How Long Does it REALLY Last



How Long Does it REALLY Last


While facilitating a PEAK (Promoting Environmental Awareness in Kids) activity called “How Long Does It Last?” for a local middle school last week, a teacher voiced concern over conflicting available information regarding decomposition rates of  trash items. 

In fact, if any of you have done an internet search on the subject, it’s easy to see how varied the data really is.  The information below will help shed light on the Center’s sources for compiling data for this PEAK activity and similar activities found in 101 Ways to Teach Leave No Trace.

Some of the reasons for the variation in information include environmental factors such as moisture, aspect, elevation, soil type, oxygen level, etc.  Any combination of these factors can slow or increase the rate of decomposition. Thus many of the numbers provided represent a range and/or average of different rates. 

This link demonstrates just how decomposition rates of common items differ in anaerobic landfills and in open air. This data is a compilation of information from NASA, the EPA, United Nations Environmental Programme, and other environmental agencies/organizations.

Over the years, the Center has conferred a number of sources and has worked hard to provide consistent information throughout our suite of educational materials.
For more clarification, or if you have any other related questions, please contact Leave No Trace’s Education Programs Coordinator, Jason Grubb.