Posted in: Environment.
Tagged: Break · Tin
The factors at work in your back yard compost pile including soil microbes affect how quickly a tin can will break down. Adequate moisture, warm yet cool temps (70-75 F is ideal), adequate oxygen, and adequate soil critters including microbes are important. Acidic soil also lends itself to corroding metal. In the case of a "tin" can, don’t forget the lead that seals the seam and then the plastic liner that protects us from the lead; although it does tend to include a few, plastic based, bad apples of its own. Lastly, the thickness of the can as well as the smoothness of the can’s surface come into play.
In wet, acidic, evergreen needle mulch with a bit of gray clay, a tin can is typically pretty rusted out within 18-24 months; it pretty much "disappears" within 36 to 60 months. On the other hand, it has been determined that a sheet of newspaper will be readable 500 years after the fact at the bottom of a modern landfill; you can only imagine how long it would take to break down a tin can!
The dinosaurs will be back by that time.
The bulk of modern cans are steel, with tin sometimes used as a coating. So, the real question would involve a little tin and a lot of steel. If you drive in the desert and pull off the road where people have littered, you can see "tin cans" that have lain around for apparently decades. Some have bullet holes in them.
Rust is the main thing that degrades them. In wetter areas it would surely take less time. I have no exact answer.
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