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Biodegradation is a chemical process in which materials are dissolved by bacteria or other biological elements. If a material is biodegradable, it means that it can be consumed by microorganisms and turned into compounds that are natural. It is an important process in ecology and waste management. Items that are biodegradable are considered environmentally friendly because they can turn back into elements found in nature.
Organic materials, such as those that come from plants and animals, can be degraded aerobically (with oxygen) or anaerobically (without oxygen). Some artificial or inorganic materials can also be biodegraded. It is possible to identify specific microorganisms that are able to biodegrade these materials.
|Product||Time to biodegrade|
|Apple core||1–2 months|
|General paper||1–3 months|
|Paper towel||2–4 weeks|
|Cardboard box||2 months|
|Cotton cloth||5 months|
|Plastic coated milk carton||5 years|
|Wax coated milk carton||3 months|
|Tin cans||50–100 years|
|Aluminium cans||150–200 years|
|Glass bottles||Undetermined (forever)|
|Plastic bags||10–20 years|
|Soft plastic (bottle)||100 years|
|Hard plastic (bottle cap)||400 years|
- Sims, G.K.; A.M. Cupples (1999). "Factors controlling degradation of pesticides in soil". Pesticide Science: 598-601.
- Diaz E (editor). (2008). Microbial Biodegradation: Genomics and Molecular Biology (1st ed.). Caister Academic Press. . http://www.horizonpress.com/biod.
- Cupples, A.M.; E.A. Shaffer, J.C. Chee-Sanford, and G.K. Sims (2007). "DNA buoyant density shifts during 15N DNA stable isotope probing". Microbiological Res. 162: 328-334.
- Sims, G.K. (1991). The effects of sorption on the bioavailability of pesticides.. London: Springer Verlag. pp. 119-137.
- http://cmore.soest.hawaii.edu/cruises/super/biodegradation.htm [Mote Marine Laboratory, 1993]