#LitterWatch2017: Week 1

So #LitterWatch2017 has been underway for one week, with the rubbish out in the rain, wind, sun, and frost. As predicted, the paper products show the most signs of disintegration, with the napkin looking the worse for wear of all the items on the board. Depending on what website you check, the rate of decomposition for paper ranges from 2-4 weeks for a paper towel to 6 weeks for a newspaper, but I’m assuming this is in buried conditions rather than being above ground like litter. Due to the rain, it has turned into a sodden mess … but it isn’t actually disappearing.

Regarding the other paper items, it is now possible to see the tobacco through the paper part of the cigarette, but the cellulose acetate of the filter looks practically brand new. The outer layer of the coffee cup is swelling with moisture, the fast food container is softening and tearing, and the paper takeaway container starting to lose a little of its structural integrity.

The receipt and sandwich wrapper are more or less unchanged, but these are both coated.

The white biodegradable balloon (made of “special ecolovy materials”, whatever those are) shows no sign of breaking into the promised “water, CO2 and plant matters”, and is instead a useful reminder to question greenwashing. For example, one maker of balloons claim to they are as biodegradable as oak leaves, which should raise the question: how long does it take for oak leaves to decompose?

Oddly enough, they take longer than most leaves, and the answer seems to be 6 – 18 months. Do we really want balloons laying around that long? That’s more than enough time to be eaten by wildlife.

Which brings to the semi-inflated yellow balloon. It was blown up on 30th December so I could mount it on the board, and it has not yet deflated. Jellyfish are a favourite food of sea turtles, and I think it is very easy to imagine how they would get confused seeing something like this on the surface of the water, especially if it were trailling ribbon. Likewise, seabirds tend to get caught in the strings of balloons floating at the surface. Time for a ban on balloon releases?

Everything else remains as it was, just a bit wetter.

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