Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels
Written by Andrew Lisa as published in Stacker (click here for full article)
The word “decompose” means “to separate into constituent parts or elements or into simpler compounds,” according to Merriam-Webster. Biodegradation is a similar process, but one that is defined by elements that can be broken down into innocuous parts by the action of living things like worms or microorganisms.
All non-living things are eventually broken down into simple molecules by the elements, microorganisms, and the ravages of time, but some things take significantly longer to decompose than others. When a person throws something in the garbage, the discarded item seems to be out of their lives forever. However, the item’s journey to elemental breakdown or decomposition has just begun. Organic materials, like that leftover salad someone couldn’t quite finish, can return to the earth in a matter of days—but the plastic the salad was packaged in can stay put for thousands of years.