Are you on your way to a zero waste household? If you haul your trash to the curb every week in a plastic trash bag, figuring out a more sustainable alternative to that plastic bag can be challenging. We’ve rounded up a few greener trash bag alternatives for your consideration to help you reduce your single-use plastic trash bag consumption.
There aren’t a lot of reusable trash bag alternatives on the market yet. Canadian company Kwik Bagit makes reusable, washable bag models meant to collect your recycling and yard waste. Kwik Bagit also offers an adjustable telescoping bag holder that allows nearly any size of bag to be secured with retainer clips that hold the bag in place while being filled.
Their blue recycling bag is made of RPET mesh to allow recycling to air dry and has a reinforced base so it doesn’t leak. Their green bag is a nonwoven poly/cloth blend and intended for hauling yard waste to the compost collection site. They also offer a black bag intended to hold sports equipment. These reusable bags can be sprayed with a hose to clean and reused dozens of times. Reuse is always better than single-use products and eliminating plastic waste destined to be trash is a big win!
Reusable bags won’t work for regular curbside trash collection. However, you can lessen your Earth-impact by making use of plant-based trash bags, even if they are single-use. Using plant materials instead of plastic is a good choice as there is a smaller environmental impact in growing crops as opposed to mining for oil. Plants are a renewable resource while fossil fuels, which are used to make conventional plastic, are nonrenewable.
There are many offerings on the market including bags made of sugar cane, surplus crops, corn starch, GMO-free plants, and plenty more. Many of these plant-based bags claim to be compostable, which brings us to our next greener trash bag alternative.
Compostable bags are meant to break down into organic material after a certain time. This is ideal if you are hauling yard waste to a composting facility or moving food waste destined to be composted. For your landfill trash, compostable bags are also beneficial, especially since you are cutting out your plastic waste. The contents of modern landfills do not decompose nearly as well or as fast as a compost heap but organics do break down a bit. Film plastic trash bags will eventually turn into microplastics after a very long time stewing in the landfill.
Compostable bags help reduce this microplastic pollution even if they are contained within a landfill. There are many compostable bags on the market, most have some sort of plant-based content. Check out well-reviewed UNNI ASTM and ProGreen compostable bags.
Recycled Content Bags
Another single-use greener option for waste bags is using a recycled content bag. It’s common eco-knowledge that utilizing any sort of waste and making it into a new product is better than using virgin oil to make a single-use plastic item.
There are many recycled content bags to choose from. We can recommend looking for certifications to differentiate brands such as Evolution Trash Bags certified by the US Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. Also, consider well-reviewed brands such as Neat or brands that have been doing this eco-product thing for a while such as Seventh Generation.
DIY Your Trash Bags
Perhaps the greenest alternative to a standard plastic trash bag is to make your own trash bag. Find some folding directions for many sizes of bags on the Make Your Own Zone. These directions instruct crafters to make use of newspapers but you can also make bags out of mailer ads (similar to a newspaper) or leftover craft paper. Of course, paper bags can only be used for dry waste so this option is best for an office or bathroom waste bin. Reusing what you already have on hand and have already used is one of the greenest options for waste bags!
Skip the Liner
What are the bagging rules for your waste hauler? Perhaps you can skip the trash can liner altogether! Trucks that dump the waste directly into their compactor may allow you to nix the bag. We do recommend you inquire about this alternative before putting it in place. Most recycling is supposed to be unbagged but it’s not the same in every community and very unusual for trash. If you do need to bag your waste, consider only lining one large trash bin in your home and dumping all bins into that one bag. You can cut down on bag usage considerably if you only use one.
Even if your home is zero waste, you do still need to collect compost and recycling. Choosing a greener option for your waste collection bag is one way to make your life gentler on the Earth.