5 Zero Waste Alternatives to Trash Bags

dispose of household garbage without using plastic bags

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At the beginning of my low-waste journey, trash bags were one of the things I disliked buying the most. It just didn’t make sense.

I started thinking about ways in which I could avoid buying trash bags, and how to dispose of household garbage without using plastic bags.

After trying out different options, I found out which ones work best and which – not so good. Below, you’ll find 5 ideas on how to throw rubbish without a plastic bag!

Let’s jump right into it.

5 Zero Waste Trash Bag Alternatives

Here’s how to dispose of household garbage without using plastic bags:

1. Reusable trash bag

To dispose of household garbage without using single-use plastic bags, you can use a sturdy reusable bag 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 can wash the bag in between uses. 

If you separate your trash, this shouldn’t be a problem though. For example, I use a large Ikea bag for collecting my paper waste. The paper is clean, and I don’t have to wash the bag between uses.

Another idea is to DIY a reusable trash bag by repurposing old plastic bags you already have at home.

It is simple to make – all you need is a few plastic bags, an iron, and a sheet of baking paper. You can watch the tutorial below to see how to do it with DIY with Hometalk:

How to DIY a Reusable Shopping Bag with Plastic Bags

If you don’t feel like DIYing, you can get a reusable trash bag with different sections to separate your trash, like this one on Amazon.

2. 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 easy to make, and a good option if you 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. Here is a short YouTube video, that shows how to do it: 

DIY Paper bin/trash Liner

3. Use what you already have

You can use any sort of bags, boxes, or materials that you already have. For example, if you have pets, and you buy their food in bulk in big 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.
  • If you buy toilet paper in bulk and it comes wrapped in plastic, you can use that to collect waste.
  • If you ordered anything online, and it came in a cardboard box, you can collect your paper, aluminum, or glass there.

4. Go bagless

The most efficient and easy method, an an ideal option for those who make small amounts of trash.

Make sure you separate the waste and have different bins for different waste – for food scraps, plastics, glass, non-recyclables, etc.

Also, ensure that the trash is clean and dry, too. You can rinse the bin between uses if needed. 

dispose of household garbage without using plastic bags

5. Recycled plastic trash bag 

If all of the ideas below are a little bit too much for you, you can perhaps find bags made of recycled plastic.

While not an ideal option, it is still better, since there is no need for using virgin materials, and it is still a slightly better choice. Also, the higher the recycled content, the better.

Extra tips:

Separate your trash

This will make everything much easier and will allow you to use fewer single-use trash bags.

I generally collect all my paper in a huge Ikea bag, then I have a box in which I collect my glass bottles, and I have a metal bin, where I collect my plastic & aluminum waste (without a bag, I just put everything in the bin).

Since packaging that’s dirty with food can’t get recycled, and contaminates other materials that can potentially be recycled, I also wash the plastics, glass jars, and aluminum, wait for them to dry, and then place them in the bin. This keeps my trash bins clean and not stinky. 

Recycling is a tricky business and often, even two cities in the same country have different recycling rules. Because of this, it’s best to do your research and see what requirements apply to where you live in regards to separating your waste.

dispose of household garbage without using plastic bags


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 to start composting even in a small apartment.

Don’t be fooled by ‘biodegradable’ trash bags – it’s still plastic

The truth is that most biodegradable plastics are made from synthetic polyesters that are fossil-based.

Furthermore, there isn’t really much sense in using “biodegradable” plastic bags 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?


Garbage bags before plastic – what was used before plastic garbage bags?

Plastic bags were invented around the 1950s. Prior to that, people used 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 used to throw 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, you will save about $30 per year. It doesn’t sound like 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 and 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 grocery bag (that’s about 15 bags per month) would use about 180 bags per year.

33 grams per 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! 

Zero Waste Alternatives To Trash Bags Infographic:

dispose of household garbage without using plastic bags

One Comment

  1. I’m still looking for the magic solution for how to stop using plastic grocery bags for the kitchen garbage. If I didn’t need plastic grocery bags for kitchen garbage, it would be easy to avoid using plastic bags at the grocery store, ie, by using reusable bags (cloth, etc) instead.

    I’m hesitant about putting a cloth bag from the kitchen garbage into the washing machine. Our clothing goes into the washing machine.

    For that matter, I have never put any of my dozen, idle, cloth shopping bags into the washing machine. I wouldn’t mind, as long as they don’t have kitchen garbage on ’em. Pretty much, my washing machine has never seen anything that dirty. I guess the worst case is the “styrofoam 🙄 and plastic wrap” from meat and chicken.

    But, my mind works slowly. I’m thinking that I can use the occasional plastic bag when there’s meat-wrapping. But maybe for everything else, there’s no other dirt that would be objectionable to put into the washing machine. That would be more than a 90% reduction in plastic bag consumption.

    Glad I wrote. In the process, I figured out a scenario that isn’t perfect, but it’s way superior. I’ll bet you a dollar that back in Walmart, someone’s going to ask me how I survive without collecting plastic bags for my kitchen trash.

    And yes, it’s hard to argue against vegetarianism.

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