We call 'biodegradable' to everything that can become a simpler substance and harmless to the environment. It is a natural process by which microbes in biodegradable objects act to dissolve the components. Somehow, they 'feed' of biodegradable products and then return them to earth. After this process of 'decomposition', the material is ready to be recycled. And if not, at least it is less polluting.
Some products are more biodegradable than others. Everything depends on the elements of its composition. The presence of oxygen, light and water, is also important as products act using these elements. The products most resistant to degradation are heavy metals, pesticides, petroleum compounds, medical waste, among others. These materials remain for a long time, destroying the environment and making it more toxic. In contrast, biodegradable products can be re-used, avoiding costs of industrialization and pollution. What are these products? The paper, organic waste (food waste, feces, etc.), cardboard and any product that is of animal or vegetable origin, or have a similar composition can be biodegradable. The more natural the product is, the less time it takes to decompose.
Time of biodegradation of some products
Plastic bags: 12 to 20 years.
Paper: 2 to 5 months.
Cigarette filters: 1 to 12 years.
Aluminum: 100 years.
Cotton: 6 months.
Organic waste: 3 weeks to 4 months.
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Recycling: a way to help
Fortunately, the list of recyclable items has increased. Plastic, for example, is one of the products of greatest concern and has been generated controversy in recent years due to the time of biodegradation, which can be quite extensive, but thanks to the contributions of technology and science, we can accelerate that process.
What we have to keep in mind when recycling is the classification of our trash. The most common is to be divided into the following categories: organic, metal, glass, paper and cardboard, plastic, batteries, miscellaneous. This may vary by area, but it is something that serves as a general idea. Before you throw things, try to reduce its size. For example, crush a smash plastic bottle or metal can before discarding. This will facilitate the subsequent recycling process. Also try to use and reuse everything you can, extend to the maximum the use of packaging, and better if we can buy returnable.
Finally, learn about the measures being taken around the recycling of garbage in your city. This is particularly important with regard to technologic waste as it generates too much pollution. This occurs because it contains highly toxic elements such as heavy metals. The same goes for the batteries. To recycle them, there are usually specialized agencies that have the necessary expertise to do it. They separate recyclable substances and find a way to get rid of the most complicated ones. Our task is to make those wastes a successful target instead of leaving them in the common garbage.
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