Green Cleaning, Green Home

Environmentally Friendly Trash Bags – The Search is On!

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At Rocking the Cloth, I want to share my desire with you to not only diaper our kids in a budget-savvy and eco-friendly way, but I also want to document my family’s journey on doing our best to create a low-key, wallet-friendly and environmentally friendly home. We are no where near perfect in this process. We are trying to make little changes all the time.

In my video about the Pros of Cloth Diapers I made yesterday, you may have heard the statistic saying that each person generates 30 lbs of garbage per week. For the average family, this adds up to over 100 lbs! That’s quite a bit of garbage. On top of this amount of garbage, we are disposing of it in plastic bags, and it’s been all over the news lately how much plastic is impacting our planet. Regardless of your opinions on environmental issues, this is something we can see, so there is no denying it. Will environmentally friendly trash bags make any sort of difference? Maybe. I firmly believe that any step we take, no matter how small, will help. For most of us (me included), responsibly handling our trash will be a process, not an instantaneous change. That’s okay!

What Do We Do About It?

It’s obvious we need to reduce the amount of plastic we are using and find other solutions. I already do this in many ways, including using reusable shopping bags, using bars of soap instead of plastic bottles, using reusable Tupperware for almost everything to reduce the amount of Ziplocs my family uses, finding a second purpose for any plastic bag that does come into our home, etc.

One area that my family has not figured out a good solution for yet is garbage bags.

First of all, the best thing we can do to lessen the impact garbage bags have on the planet is create less garbage! By creating less garbage, that is the best way to solve this problem.

Ideally, we would get to a point where we create so little garbage the kind of bag we use is not as big of a deal, but it’s not an overnight process. Our family still has garbage. In the meantime, we need to find something that is a little more environmentally friendly.

One cool thing about cloth diapers and cloth diaper accessories is that so many of them have a practical use around the house once baby is out of diapers. Once my youngest is potty trained, I plan to experiment with using the pail liners/wet bags as reusable garbage bags for smaller garbage cans. I’m sure I’ll have some kinks to work out once I give that a try, but I hope it ends up working out well!

Reduce/Reuse/Recycle

Most of you have probably heard the mantra, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” What you may not have known is that those 3 words are put in a strategic order. Our first attempt should be at reducing the amount we use. If we can’t reduce, we should try to reuse, and finally if it can’t be reused, it should be recycled. This principle can be applied to almost any consumable good in our lives.

Reuse Garbage Bags

One way to make a more eco-friendly trash disposal choice is to combine garbages together in one bag for disposal as much as you can, and simply reuse the garbage bags that you aren’t throwing out as much as possible.

You can try to use a single garbage bag a few times before throwing it away for good, especially if you’re careful about rinsing away mess from food containers, composting anything you can, etc. to try and reduce how messy the trash is before throwing it out.

Be sure you contain all of your garbage into some sort of bag before putting it in your garbage bin, though. If you have ever driven behind a garbage truck, I’m sure you have seen how garbage can fly out! That is an environmental problem, too, so we need to contain the garbage in a bag. However, by combining all of our garbage into one bag as much as we can (and without breaking the bag), that can help reduce unnecessary plastic bag use.

Plant Based Garbage Bags

On top of reusing bags, I also want to find a more responsibly made/recyclable and/or biodegradable bag for when they do end up having to be thrown. Plant based garbage bags, like Hippo Sak Tall Kitchen Bags, are an 88% biobased product. These particular bags are made from sugar cane with renewable resources instead of fossil fuels. They are also 100% recyclable- score!

You may have picked up from my blog that I’m pretty economically minded, and one thing I was worried about on the pursuit of new trash bags was cost. As many of us know, eco-friendly products can often be more expensive.

One of my big reasons I won’t pay $0.20-$0.30 for a disposable diaper is that they just end up in a garbage after a few hours and later a landfill. Over the 2-3 years most kids are in diapers, that is could be as much as $1500-$2000. $1500-$2000 you spent just to throw something away. The idea is the same with trash bags–they’re things we buy to literally throw away! So cost was definitely an important factor to me.

The Hippo Sak Tall Kitchen Bags price isn’t too bad–it’s comparable to some leading brands of garbage bags, but maybe not as cheap as generic brands. They have a better per unit price when you buy them in larger quantities.

This bag is VERY sturdy and you won’t have to worry about it breaking! It does much, much better at holding up than many regular garbage bags.

Biodegradable Trash Bags

The Eco-Smartbags Biodegradable Trash Bags is a completely biodegradable product. According to the company, this product decomposes naturally on its own and turns to soil in 1 to 7 years. They can also be recycled, are non-toxic, and chemical free.

The company also states that they are compostable, but in my research I read some debate about whether or not that is actually true. The biggest complaint against these trash bags is that some composting facilities have been unable to accept them, so if you plan to use them for that purpose you need to check your own compost facility requirements to make sure they actually meet the standards needed.

Price-wise, these bags are a little more expensive than the average garbage bag, but their reviews on durability are excellent. It would be a worthy purchase for a more eco-friendly garbage bag if you are willing to spend a little more.

One criticism against biodegradable items is that in order for things to biodegrade, you need certain conditions a landfill can’t offer. However, this product supposedly biodegrades without specific oxygen, heat, light, moisture, or mechanical requirements.

Sustainably-Made Trash Bags from Recycled Materials

There are a few brands of trash bags out there that are made from a good percentage of recycled materials and in a way that reduces the company’s carbon footprint. One of these is the Evolution Trash Bags. They are made from 70% recycled materials, are EPA compliant and exceed the EPA procurement guidelines by 700%. These bags are not biodegradable, but because they are made from a high percentage of recycled plastics, they are giving a second life those materials.

These bags are also reasonably priced–about as competitively as a standard brand of garbage bags (maybe slightly better), but not as cheap as generics.

Getting a trash bag made from recycled materials may actually be the greenest option you can choose. With all the debate surrounding whether or not biodegradable things are actually biodegradable, at least these aren’t pretending to be. These are giving a second life to plastics, which is a great way to overall reduce the amount of plastic we use.

Making the Right Decision

I want to encourage you that you will make the right decision for your garbage bags based on what you’re able to do. There is no perfect solution, and there is some debate over if any garbage bag is really biodegradable despite what the manufacturer says, so all we can do is make the best choice for our circumstances.

For those of us on a tight budget, that may mean regular garbage bags that we try to treat gently so we can reuse them. For others of us, it may mean looking into and purchasing new products. 

Do you have a better idea? Something I’m overlooking? Drop it in the comments!

 

Holly Lee

I'm Holly and I'm the mom of two awesome young boys. We have been cloth diapering for 5 years. My family and I live in Minnesota with our dog, Ruby, and cat, Gherkin. Outside of Rocking the Cloth, I am also a middle school teacher. Thank you for visiting Rocking the Cloth--feel free to email me at holly@rockingthecloth.com if you have any questions or concerns. I'd love to help!

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20 Comments

  1. Emmanuel Buysse says:

    This is a very good post, I always love environment/climate posts. 

    About the bags, if everybody would use an environment friendly bag, like the re-usable one, or even a carton one, the oceans would already look so much cleaner, the fishes would survive, and in the end, we would be much more healthier.

    Every piece counts, I will share this post, since we have to spread this message to save the world!

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thanks Emmanuel! You’re right, if everyone did their part, it’s be a much different story!

  2. Michel says:

    What next? Biodegradeable garbage bags are an excellent idea. Are the ones made of plant matter as strong and durable as the plastic? I see they are quite pricey, especially the ones that turn into soil again after a few years. You would definitely have to make a plan to reuse these ones to get your money’s worth.

    Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could stop using or use very little plastic? If everyone did this and the manufacturers also pulled their weight by not selling plastic anymore, just think what a healthier planet we can have to leave to generations after us.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Hi Michel! You’re right, they are a little pricey. I plan to combine our new trash bag purchase with an effort to reduce what we are throwing away and keeping the trash “cleaner” to reuse the bag when possible. As for durability, the reviews on Amazon are excellent! But I only just put my order in today, so I will update after I’ve used them, too.

  3. Lev says:

    Yep, I agree with you regarding the environment and that every bit helps. I first came across bio-degradable trash bags at the pet store for picking after my dog when walking him. Then I asked myself why am I not doing this for all the trash bags I use. So I recently made the conscious decision to switch out my whole household with environmentally friendly trash bags. I appreciate the statistics you provided, this gave me that extra push to go ahead and try a couple of your recommendations. Thank you.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      That’s awesome Lev! Go you!

  4. Karen Noone says:

    I am always looking to reduce or recycle everything but our council requires us to use black bags for general household waste and cannot just put trash straight into the bin. This makes reusing the bags impossible. I notice that the ones you recommend are white so these are not suitable. Do you have any eco friendly black garbage bags you could recommend?

    On a more positive note we do also have a recycling bin, for plastics, cardboard, paper and glass!

    Karen

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Hi Karen! That’s a great question, I will look into that! I know of none off the top of my head, but I bet there is something out there that could work!

  5. Neil says:

    I thnk it’s so sad that our oceans are clogging up with plastics and all other sorts of trash because it’s really beginning to have a negative impact on wildlife under the water which in turn can lead to serious consequences for other sea creatures and especially fisherman as well as the fish market.

    My mom has always said that plastic is the worst thing that was invented because it’s destroying our planet. And she’s right!

    But I think it’s great that you and your family are taking steps to help the enviroinment and help others to do the same. When both my brothers were young, I know exactly how many dipers babies and toddlers go through lol. And then there are the diaper sacks to go with them.

    So it’s important, that we, as a global population take action to help the enivironment, especially as the population is expanding with new borns. Uisng environmentally free trash bags is definitely a step in the right direction because even small changes can make the world of difference.

    Neil

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thanks Neil. I totally agree! Who would have thought when plastic was invented what it would turn into? Even beyond the pollution, such as health issues. Even the AAP has come out against BPA recently!

  6. Brandon Pierce says:

    I was taking out the trash the other day, and it hit me that all these plastic bags I’m using just doesn’t make sense.  Not money-wise or environment-wise.  Not to mention half the time it leaks all over the place or breaks open.  We have reusable bags to bring in the groceries and such, so why not trash bags?  I was hoping I had a million dollar idea that no one had thought of yet, but I came across this article quick.  That’s okay, though.  At least I have some good options here.  Thanks for the info.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thanks for your input Brandon! I’m also looking for a million dollar idea. 🙂 One thing I would like to do once my son potty trains is use our diaper pail liners (we cloth diaper, so they are reusable cloth liners that sit in a pail to hold dirty diapers before washing) as reusable trash bags. Then we can rinse and wash in between uses. Haven’t tried it yet because our pail liners are still being used for diapers. But maybe you could look into something like that!

  7. Paola says:

    Hello, I really liked your article. Where I live we don’t have the bins and almost no one recycles their garbage. It is really sad. I try to do it for myself because I believe in doing some small things by myself, but it still going to make a difference for the planet. I did not know about this garbage bag. We can’t find something like this in the supermarkets. but purchasing them online is a good deal too. 🙂

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thanks Paola! I definitely agree that where you live makes a big difference. The area I grew up in definitely does not have as accessible recycling options as where I live now.

  8. Shaked says:

    The awareness to the fact that we are drowning in plastic really grew in the last couple of years. I reduced my use in supermarket plastic bags but I have to admit that I forgot about the garbage bags. I’m throwing one every 2-3 days, that’s a lot when you calculate it for the long term.

    Reuse the garbage bags is not really an option for me, but using recyclable ones is a good idea. Thank you for raising the awareness in this subject.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      No problem! I agree, it’s been an area I’m slow on, too. Reusing is definitely easier said than done! It would likely require rinsing a lot of things and maybe even drying them before throwing away, composting food scraps and using garbage disposal when you can to keep them out of the garbage, etc. It would be a lot to try and do all at once, but making little changes could eventually get someone there!

  9. Renton says:

    I think its a brilliant idea to use sugar cane to make green (hehe) garbage bags. I think people will soon come to see not only the necessity but also the efficiency of using resources more responsibly. It is interesting to see how many new products have popped up to solve the problem of using fossil fuels as the primary resource in industry.

    Biodegradable products are also better for us, because lets face it going green takes effort which most people simply do not care to muster. Sugar cane is also a renewable resource (well it doesn’t take millions of ears to form like fossil fuels) this means that it is probably more sustainable than other alternatives.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Great points Renton! It is definitely more sustainable than fossil fuels!

  10. Erin Arndt says:

    I don’t mean to play devils advocate and maybe I’m missing the point, but how does using recyclable trash bags help at all? I mean once they hit the landfill, if they can’t biodegrade, is there someone who digs through the landfill to retrieve recyclables? I’m genuinely wanting to know……I currently use biodegradable trash bags (or at least that’s what they say on the box) but they are super expensive and my family is on a tight budget. Id love to find something that decreases the amount of plastic I use but also doesn’t break the bank! My family has switched completely to reusable, metal straws and we refuse all straws whe we eat out. I haven’t bought plastic sandwich baggies in over a year now! I’ve switched to biodegradable trash bags and I just found out that Tide makes an eco-friendly laundry soap dispenser for 96 loads! It’s made of all cardboard. The only plastic is the nozzle. Plus you can order it on Amazon, and if you don’t choose the 2-day shipping you are decreasing your carbon footprint of the shipping. Overall, we try our hardest to decrease our plastic use. It’s just got to be something you think about on a daily basis! However, if anyone knows the benefit of recyclable trash bags, I’d love to hear it, I truly want to find something a little less expensive!

    1. Hi Erin! Since the conditions in a landfill aren’t favorable for decomposition (I’ve heard even a banana peel can’t biodegrade in those conditions), the bags made from recycled materials just give a second life to plastics that may have possibly ended up in the landfill after being used only once. This gives at least 2 uses before they are thrown away for good, over all reducing the amount of single use plastic.

      Overall, the best way to be eco-friendly is to reduce the amount of waste we generate, therefore throwing out less garbage and plastic bags overall. But the biggest criticism for green products is that the biodegradable claims are exaggerated—they’re biodegradable under certain conditions, which landfills don’t meet. I hope that makes sense!

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