Hi everyone, This article on Solsarin is going to give you some information about “how long does it take sponges to biodegrade”
Which kitchen sponges can I compost?
Sponges are a convenient way to wash dishes and wipe up spills, but are they good for you or the environment? I’ve been detoxing my home and focusing on the soaps, now I’ve turned my attention to the actual wipe – not pretty!
It turns out they are neither good for our health or the planet. Firstly, they are a source of much waste. The sponges each household throws away in a year will take up landfill space for more than 52,000 years. Plastic based sponges cannot be recycled or composted.
Secondly, moist sponges are apparently the number one source of germs in your entire home – great places for salmonella, E.coli and staphylococcus – dirtier than your toilet or your bin. It’s not enough to just wash sponges, they need to be sanitised too – boiling, zapping or soaking in vinegar.
The other problem with sponges is that they are disposable and full of chemicals. Even after they have been thrown away, the bacteria-killing triclosan that they’re impregnated with negatively impacts aquatic ecosystems. Triclosan, an antimicrobial agent (and pesticide) that has been linked to cancer, developmental toxicity and skin irritation.
Magic sponges – not compostable and create microplastic waste
White magic sponges are made from melamine foam. Melamine foam is made from the compound formaldehyde-melamine–
Standard foam sponges – not compostable and emit toxins
Most sponges are now made from synthetic and petrochemcial materials. Polyurethane, often used in sponges, can emit formaldehyde. They are not compostable.
Standard cellulose sponges are compostable but usually contain chemicals.
The common kitchen sponge is made of cellulose fibre (eg: wood pulp), which is compostable, but it is typically soaked in chemicals to prevent bacterial growth.
What can you use instead?
- Grow your own sponges. Loofahs ( Luffa acutangula), a type of gourd grown in warmer climates (edible when young, leaves too). Once they are full size, harvest and soak them in a bucket for a few days until the skin starts to come away from the ‘skeleton’. It’s easy to remove at this point, and the seeds can be shaken out. Wash and dry the loofah in the sun and it’s ready to be used as a bath or kitchen sponge.
- source 100% cellulose fibre sponges. These are completely biodegradable and can be fully composted. Some you can fine are made from hemp or bamboo.
- cotton rags
- crocheted dishcloths from natural fibres
Important maintenance of natural wiping cloths:
- After use, rinse with hot water, wring and hang to dry.
- At the end of the day, soak sponges and dishcloths in full strength vinegar for at least 5 minutes, preferably overnight. Other suggestions include boiling or microwaving them, but vinegar kills 99.6% of the bacteria. Pretty good really. No need for bleach, boiling or zapping.
- After a week or two, compost it.
Are Sponges Recyclable?
The first thing that comes to your mind when you talk about sponges will range from taking your bath in the bathroom to washing your dishes in the kitchen. No doubt, sponges are highly invaluable in the home due to their numerous uses. When you talk about cleaning your footwear, washing your dishes, getting dirt off surfaces of home equipment and furniture, the use of sponges cannot be overestimated.
But then, despite their great use, there are still some tough questions we need to ask. For instance, when you use these materials, what do you do with them? Do you think they serve any purpose after you might have used them for home cleaning? After using it to wash your body, do you just throw it away and get your environment littered with it? Are there not several measures you can take to avoid getting your surroundings messed up with these items?
These and many more environmentally-inclined questions on sponges are what we consider in this post. Hence, we answer the questions of whether you can recycle sponges and if your sponges are biodegradable? We will also consider if your sponges are compostable and if they are bad for the environment. Lastly, since we cherish our environment, we will be taking a closer look at how you can dispose of your old sponges.
As you can see, you are about to be exposed to several things you have no or little knowledge of as far as sponges are concerned. What we simply ask of you is to take a sit back and follow through as we provide answers to these frequently asked questions about sponges.
Can You Recycle Sponges?
This is one of the most asked questions about sponges. The answer to this question is not far-fetched. In the subsequent paragraphs, you will get to know the answer to this pressing question.
Yes, you can recycle sponges. However, it is important that you know that not all types of sponges are recyclable. While some types of sponges can undergo recycling processes, others cannot. Do you want to know the reason for this? We trust you do. So here you have it.
The reason is simply that sponges are made from different materials. While some are made from polyurethane, others are made from plant sources as well as cellulose. These different materials affect the possibility of having each one recycled. But then, as a user, you would like to know which of the sponges are recyclable. Well, here you have it.
Research has shown that sponges made from cellulose and plant sources can be recycled. This is because they are made from natural elements and for that reason, can go through recycling processes with ease. The cellulose sponges are made from a combination of natural and veggie-based materials such as cotton fibers and wood pulps which make them highly recyclable.
Due to the presence of these natural fibers and cellulose in large quantities in them, they can be recycled after their useful life. The plastic types of these sponges, that is, those made from cellulose but are plastic can also be recycled and used to make other plastic materials.
On the other hand, sponges made from polyurethane are generally not recyclable because they contain a high amount of petroleum-based materials which makes their recycling impossible. Recycling stations often exclude this kind of sponges from their acceptable recyclable materials.
Are Sponges Biodegradable?
It is natural for you to want to know if what you use daily to bathe and wash dishes are biodegradable or not. Well, you have come to the right place, you don’t need to think too far about it, in the subsequent paragraphs, we provide you with the answers you need.
Whether sponges are biodegradable or not depends on their type. As mentioned earlier, sponges are of two types – those made from natural materials such as cotton fibers and wood pulps (generally referred to as cellulose sponges) and those made from petroleum-based materials (usually referred to as polyurethane sponges). Accordingly, the former are biodegradable while the latter is not.
Cellulose sponges are biodegradable due to a large number of natural elements and materials from which they are made. Naturally, this type of sponges can decompose due to their natural composition. Since they are veggie-based, that is, they are made from plants and vegetables, they can easily be broken down.
Another evidence to show that cellulose sponges are biodegradable is due to the wear and tear associated with them. As you wash and scrub your dishes or whatever you are using it to wash, you will notice some scratches which are a result of wear and tear. This proves their volatility state and the potentials of quickly breaking down after some time. But then, this is just for one type of sponges, the other type is not like this.
The polyurethane sponges on the other hand are not biodegradable. This is because of the fact that they are made from petroleum-based materials. This makes them look so much like nylon or polyester. And since these materials are non-biodegradable, it is easier to conclude that polyurethane sponges are not biodegradable.
Moreover, these types of sponges can also be made from renewable sources such as gas and oil which thicken their texture. This is the reason you are likely to see them in landfills for several years without breaking down. And this is why it has been recommended that the polyurethane sponges should be properly disposed of to prevent them from posing threat to our environment and surrounding.
Are Sponges Compostable?
Here is another question you will like to find an answer to. To know if sponges are compostable or not, it is important that we know the peculiarity of each type of sponges. You are already familiar with the different types of sponges, now, let’s look at which of them can be broken down to form compost.
Generally, polyurethane sponges are not compostable. Due to their composition, they lack the ability to be broken down to form compost. Most of the polyurethane sponges are made from petrochemical as well as synthetic materials. Due to a large amount of these petroleum materials, they often emit formaldehyde, a substance that prevents them from decaying. The emission of this gas from these sponges makes them not compostable.