Examples of biodegradble things are paper, cotton, human and solid waste. When disposed, biodegradable materials are broken down by microorganisms and other living things in a reasonable time period.
When composted correctly, a banana peel can decompose in two days. In inadequate environment, the biodegration of a banana can take up to three years. In an unmanaged landfill, newspapers take 25 to 40 years to decompose, office paper takes 29 to 46 years, food waste takes from five to 10 years, wood can take 58 to 99 years, and cotton can take from 29 to 46 years to decompose. Biodegration takes twice as long in a dry environment as it does in a moderately wet environment. In a bioreactor environment, or a managed landfill environment which accelerates biodegration, these time frames are cut to up to 25 percent.
Some plastics are made to biodegrade by adding cornstarch or vegetable oil to speed up the process. However, unless the plastic is disposed of in a specific environment and at an ideal humidity level, the process of biodegration may take the same amount of time to biodegrade as a nonbiodegradable piece of plastic.
Items like plastic bags, tin cans, computer hardware, synthetic material and Styrofoam are not biodegradable. Most of these products take more than 500 years to degrade, if they degrade at all.