Plastic bags have a lifespan of mere minutes, yet they may persist in the environment for thousands of years. Plastics often contain additives making them stronger, more flexible, and durable, thus extending their life as litter.
Plastic cups and bottles can take up to 450 years to decompose; plastic straws, 200 years; and a common plastic bag, 20 years. Although they can break down in as little as a decade, the commonly discarded thin plastic bags can endure for as long as 1,000 years – it takes this long for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill.
Unfortunately, the bags don’t break down completely but instead photo-degrade, becoming microplastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment.