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Marine Debris Biodegradable Timeline
Some Marine Debris, like food waste or paper, are able to degrade (break down into small pieces) and disappear within a short period of time. Other debris, like glass bottles, tin cans, and fishing lines, take a very long time to break down and can take several hundred years to degrade. That is a very long time!

Many plastic debris that are created using human-made materials like nylon, polyethylene, and polypropylene, take an especially long time and may not even degrade all the way. When they cannot degrade, they may stay in the ocean forever, unless they are removed by people or marine animals.

Take a look at the chart below to see roughly how long it takes for different items to biodegrade.

Paper towels
2-4 weeks
6 weeks
Cardboard box
2 months
Apple core
2 months
Waxed milk carton
3 months
Biodegradable 6-pack
3-6 months
1-3 years
Shopping bag
1-20 years
Painted wooden stick
13 years
Foam cup
50 years
Tin can
50 years
Styrofoam buoy
50 - 80 years

200 years
6-pack ring
400 - 450 years
Disposable diaper
450 years
Plastic bottle
450 years
Fishing line (microfilament)
600 years

Glass bottles/jars


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