6 Zero Waste Alternatives to Trash Bags
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Are there any good zero waste & reusable trash bag alternatives? Luckily, yes! There are a couple of sustainable and simple ways to dispose of household garbage without using plastic bags.
To dispose of household garbage without using plastic bags:
Separate your trash and use different reusable bins/liners for clean and dry garbage such as paper, aluminum, glass, and plastic. You will need a different reusable trash bag or container, to collect wet trash, like your food scraps, and wet paper.
Below, you can find the best methods on how to dispose of your garbage without using plastic bags in detail, plus a couple of extra tips & FAQs.
Let’s jump right into it.
How to dispose of household garbage without using plastic bags – 6 zero waste trash bag alternatives:
1. Line your bin with a DIY reusable trash bag
If you have a bunch of plastic bags at home, you can repurpose them and create a DIY reusable trash bag.
You can simply watch the tutorial below, and create a custom trash bag, that will fit your needs!
The best part is that it is very simple to make – all you need is a few plastic bags, an iron, and a sheet of baking paper:
Make a durable tote bag from plastic bags with DIY with Hometalk:
2. Line your bin with a reusable bag & separate your trash
To dispose of household garbage without using plastic bags, you can use any bag or bin liners that you already have.
Once it’s full, throw away the trash in the nearest recycling bin and then reuse the bag.
If you collect things that may leak or can make the bag dirty, you should wash the bag in between uses.
For example, I use a large Ikea bag for collecting my paper waste.
The paper is clean, and I don’t even have to wash the bag between uses.
You can either use what you have or get reusable trash bags.
There are many cool ones, that have different sections for different types of trash, like this one on Amazon.
This is an excellent solution since it will encourage you to separate your trash into three different categories: metal, paper, and plastic.
3. Line your bin with newspaper
Another useful and easy DIY idea is to make a zero waste trash bag with old newspaper pages.
It is actually quite efficient, and here is a short youtube video, that shows how to do it:
This is ideal for those who receive free community newspapers weekly.
In case you don’t get newspapers, you can ask your neighbors, friends, and family, and even at your workplace or coffee shops.
Additionally, you can try to do it with other materials, if you want a water-proof version with better durability.
4. Line your bin with what you already have
Get creative! Use ANY sort of bags, boxes or materials that you already have.
For example, if you have pets, and you buy their food in huge plastic bags, you can use the empty pet food bag to collect your trash.
More examples include if you are buying protein powder in bulk, you can then reuse the bag.
Or if you ordered anything online, and it came in a cardboard box, you can collect your paper, aluminum, or glass there.
Overall, you can reuse anything you already have.
And by that, I mean to reuse it until it breaks, and it is no longer possible to use it.
5. Go bagless
This approach is one of the most efficient and easy methods.
It is an ideal option for those who make very little trash.
So, don’t worry if it doesn’t work for you yet.
Remember that you have to separate your trash, too.
You can’t mix up everything, such as food scraps, plastics, glass, non-recyclables, etc.
Use your trash bin to collect dry and clean waste, like plastic. Then, use different bins, containers, or bags for aluminum, glass, food waste, and paper.
You can rinse the bin between uses, but that won’t be necessary, if you separate your trash, and you keep it clean (more about that later.)
6. Line your bin with a recycled plastic trash bag
If all of the ideas below are a little bit too much for you, don’t worry, there is one more thing you can do.
Look for plastic bags that are made with recycled plastic.
I don’t talk about “biodegradable” plastics, but RECYCLED plastic.
The more we use recycled things, even plastic, the less we will need virgin and new materials.
You can search for recycled plastic bags in your area or purchase some online.
Just take in mind that the higher the recycled content, the better.
A few extra tips:
Separate your trash
You have to separate your trash into recyclables and non-recyclables.
The quite annoying part about recycling is that there are different regulations. Even in two different cities from the same country, there might be different rules for each city.
Some places have a better recycling structure, and they offer bins for different trash. Sometimes, there are even bins for organic (food) waste.
Do your best and try to understand what is the situation where you live.
Try to read online, or even call a couple of numbers and ask for specific things that you want to know, regarding recycling in your local area.
In general, it is usually best if you have different sections or bags for – paper, plastic, aluminum/metal, and glass.
Additional zero waste tip:
Try to reuse things, such as glass jars, and paper.
Composting is a fantastic way to deal with food scraps. It does require some preparation and learning, but it’s worth the time!
It will reduce your general waste exponentially, especially if you eat a lot of fruits and veggies.
If you want to give it a try, find out 7 different ways on how to start composting even in a small apartment!
Bags for pet poop
If you have a pet, you probably struggle to figure out a way to deal with pet poop. The options you have are:
- Use newspaper or old paper – DIY a small bag from paper (follow the tutorial I lined before, or this one)
- Eco poop scoop bags by K9 CLEAN DOGGY BOX – Canada
- Biodegradable recycled paper dog bag – the US
- The Poo Pick – Europe
Don’t be fooled by ‘biodegradable’ trash bags – it’s still plastic
Biodegradable is a tricky expression, that doesn’t tell you much.
The truth is that most biodegradable plastics are made from synthetic polyesters that are fossil-based.
Furthermore, what’s the point of using a “biodegradable” plastic bag to put non-biodegradable trash inside?
Biodegradable waste won’t biodegrade in a landfill, since it needs special conditions that aren’t existing there.
Related post: What Is Biodegradable Plastic Made Of?
Wash and dry dirty packaging
If packaging materials are dirty with food, they CAN NOT be recycled. The materials can be recycled, only if they are clean and of good quality.
So, what can you do? Simply wash the plastic, glass, or aluminum packaging before you throw it away. Allow it to dry, and then place it in your bin. This will also keep your trash bin clean and not stinky.
Garbage bags before plastic – what was used before plastic garbage bags?
Plastic bags were invented around the 1950s. So how do people collect their trash before that? People used to use brown paper bags to shop. Then they usually reused them to hold their trash.
The household garbage was stored in big city-issued metal bins, usually collected weekly. People often threw their trash directly into the bin, without any bag, or inside their paper bags.
What are the benefits of using zero waste alternatives to plastic trash bags?
- Saves money – Plastic bags are cheap, so you won’t save hundreds of dollars. From my calculation here, you will save about $30 per year. It doesn’t sound a lot, however, this item is a single-use product, and it can be overused easily. So a bag here, a bag there… and it can quickly add up.
- Saves resources – By composting your food scraps, not using any trash bags in your bin, or reusing what you already have, you will save precious resources from our planet.
- Reduces pollution & Saves animals’ lives – Plastic bags are very light, so they can easily travel long distances. That makes them a massive contributor to the pollution of our environment and killing hundreds of animals.
How much CO2 will you cut if you stop using plastic trash bags?
The exact carbon footprint of each trash bag can vary depending on many factors. However, let’s make a quick estimation.
The carbon footprint of the most commonly used plastic for plastic bags (polyethylene), is about 6 kg CO2 per kg of plastic.
A common plastic carrying bag in our household had a weight between 25 g and 40 g. So let’s take the average, which is about 33 grams.
By multiplying the number of plastic bags being used per year, we will find the tonnes of carbon dioxide.
15 bags per month (every second day) = 180 plastic bags per year
A household that uses every second day a grocery bag (that’s about 15 bags per month) would use about 180 bags per year.
33 grams pr bag x 180 bags = 5.940kg (~6kg)
This represents around 6 kilograms of CO2.
Source: TimeForChange.org & StopPlastic.ca
As mentioned, it is quite hard to be exact, so if you have a better way to calculate the CO2 of plastic bags, feel free to write it in the comment section!