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Trash talk: plastic bags, a formidable foe to our environment.
These omnipresent adversaries infiltrate our everyday lives, seemingly unavoidable. Whether we're visiting the grocery store or purchasing a new piece of clothing, chances are a plastic bag accompanies it.
Although our influence over businesses' packaging choices may be limited, we can certainly take charge when selecting the type of trash bag for our homes.
Best Biodegradable Trash Bags
If I were a gambling woman, I’d say the chances you have a plastic garbage bag in your kitchen trash can right now are very high. But, just by being here and taking an interest, I’d also say you want to change. You're making a big difference in our environment by switching out your traditional plastic garbage bag with a compostable or biodegradable bag.
Now the real question…. What type of trash bag should you use at home, and why does going eco-friendly get so confusing? While I can’t answer the latter, I can address your garbage bag woes.
The two main types of environmentally-friendly trash bags are biodegradable and compostable… but what is the difference?
These plastic trash bag alternatives have been divided between two sides for years, and we’re here to determine which is the best. Want to know more? Keep scrolling to the end of this post where we break it all down for you!
UNNI garbage bags are our top pick due to their 100% biodegradable and compostable nature. These environmentally friendly bags have BPA-free certifications from the Biodegradable Products Institute and OK Compost Home.
Constructed of corn starch and other plant-based materials, they do not contain polyethylene. Within 180 days, these bags break down into organic compounds such as CO2 and O2.
UNNI offers various products, including drawstring waste bags, small trash bags for home composting, and pet waste bags. With a mission to improve the world, they produce bags from plant starch and hold certifications from BPI (ASTM 6400) and TUV AUSTRIA (OK compost HOME).
Their compostable garbage bags come in various sizes, ranging from 2.6 to 65 gallons. They also offer pet waste bags, drawstring bags, bags with handles, and sandwich bags.
BioBag small compostable trash bags stand out as one of the top choices for eco-friendly bags. They are compostable, reusable, and incinerable, superior to paper and polyethylene bags.
Constructed from non-GMO crops, BioBags can be used for pet waste and food storage and are available in various sizes.
The brand's Compostable Countertop Food Scrap Bags feature a Mater-Bi® bioplastic resin blend, utilizing non-genetically modified plant-based materials like corn starch and an array of biodegradable and compostable polymers. Committed to incorporating renewable resources, BioBags are made in the U.S. using resin sourced from Italy.
The bags are housed in a compact, recyclable cardboard package. BioBag holds several certifications, including ISO9001, ISO14001, Non-GMO Project Verified, TÜV AUSTRIA (OK compost HOME, SOIL, and INDUSTRIAL), Biodegradable Products Institute (compostable in industrial facilities—ASTM D6400), and AS 4736 (compostable in industrial facilities).
Reli, ideal for kitchen waste cans, has been trusted for over 30 years for its durable and user-friendly biodegradable garbage bags. These bright green bags are designed to be sturdy and tear-resistant, fitting 13-gallon trash cans with ease. In addition, they break down readily when in contact with soil, making them an eco-friendly choice.
The cost per bag is remarkably budget-friendly, considering the set includes 100 biodegradable trash bags. In addition, Reli bags feature a star-sealed bottom to minimize leakage and are crafted from a high-density blend of plant-based materials and EPI chemical additives. The company also offers compostable bags for those with access to composting facilities.
Eco-certified to ASTM D6954 standards, these biodegradable trash bags contain EPI additives to accelerate the degradation process. In addition, the 13-gallon bags come in a recyclable compact cardboard box. You can opt for an 800-count bulk package to reduce your carbon footprint further.
4. Give A Sh!t!
Give A Sh!t's Compostable Dog Poop Bags (120 Standard Bags) are 100% home compostable, biodegradable, ethically sourced, and manufactured from entirely botanical plant components, including cornstarch, BPAT, and edible glycerin. These bags meet ASTM D6400 and EN 13432 standards and are TÜV AUSTRIA Home Compost Certified.
These eco-friendly bags are designed for easy opening and tearing, even in wet conditions, making pet waste disposal hassle-free. They are leakproof, odorless, and compatible with all dispensers. With a durable 18-micron thickness, these bags lock away odors and provide a mess-free, leakproof seal.
The packaging and reel are made from 100% recycled cardboard, showcasing their commitment to zero-waste and environmentally friendly pet supplies. Give A Sh!t also supports the animal community by partnering with the Soi Dog Foundation.
They donate 10% of all profits to support the foundation's mission of improving the lives of dogs and cats in Asia and ending animal suffering.
Stout by Envision offers a larger compostable bag option that can hold up to 30 gallons, making it a great choice for those needing more capacity. These bags are designed specifically for collecting organic waste and decomposing rapidly in commercial composting facilities, taking only 10 to 45 days, compared to the typical six months to a year for most biodegradable and compostable bags.
The compact, recyclable cardboard packaging is convenient and eco-friendly. Additionally, the bags feature a star seal at the bottom, ensuring they can carry extra weight without leaking or tearing.
Produced in the United States by blind or visually impaired individuals, these bags are both USCC and BPI certified and comply with ASTM D6400 standards. This ensures a high-quality, eco-friendly solution for waste disposal that supports a more inclusive workforce.
The innovators behind GreenPolly are the same individuals who established BioBag. After successfully creating a line of compostable bags, these environmentally-conscious entrepreneurs realized that most people lack access to commercial composting facilities.
Since compostable materials don't break down effectively in landfills, and decomposing plant-based waste may contribute to higher methane emissions, they sought an alternative, sustainable waste management solution.
GreenPolly offers three types of eco-friendly bags:
- 13-Gallon Blue Unscented Tall Compostable Kitchen Trash Bags: Durable and reliably strong with a secure drawstring closure, designed for household trash and waste collection.
- 13-Gallon Clear, Unscented Tall Kitchen Recycling Bags: Clear, durable, and strong with a drawstring closure, designed for collecting possibly heavy recyclables and providing visibility to view contents. These bags are intended for municipal Clear Bag recycling programs where applicable.
- 30-Gallon Wavetop Trash Bags: Designed for durability during household trash and waste collection, featuring an easy-to-tie wavetop closure for reliable strength.
All GreenPolly bags are made from 100% 3rd party certified post-consumer recycled plastic, emphasizing their commitment to sustainable waste disposal practices.
Second Nature Bags are one of the best compostable trash bags. They offer Premium Certified 100% Compostable and Biodegradable 10-liter bags, which come in packs of 100.
These extra-thick bags are designed for small kitchen waste and are made from bio-based materials that meet global composting standards, including BPI, ASTM 6400, EN 13432, Vincotte "Ok Compost Home," and AS 5810. This ensures they are safe and effective for home garden composting.
The bags are strong, and resistant to ripping or leaking, providing a reliable solution to prevent messy spills and keep your garbage pail clean and dry.
They are suitable for various purposes, such as fitting small garbage cans in your kitchen, office, bathroom, and nursery room diaper pails. They are also convenient for quick pet waste pickup. These bags are easy to tie closed, even when full, making waste disposal hassle-free.
Are there eco-friendly garbage bags?
Yes, there are! Eco-friendly bags are made to break down over time and not pollute the environment. There are many varieties of eco trash bags, but they are mainly divided into two categories - biodegradable bags and compostable bags.
Many environmentalists and green-living enthusiasts take sides on one type of bag or the other, creating the never-ending battle of biodegradable vs. compostable trash bags. However, here we will give you the full picture as we dive deep into the world of environmentally-friendly trash bags.
Are kitchen garbage bags recyclable?
Usually, kitchen trash bags aren’t recyclable. That’s because plastic bags are thin and risk getting snagged in the belts of plastic processing machinery, ultimately clogging them. Although a few curbside programs accept plastic bags, they’re not commonly accepted as recyclable items.
So, if you had the bright idea to dump your trash directly into your outdoor garbage can, saving your trash bags for multiple use or recycling. That option is out!
It’s better to find a bag collection bin in retail stores like Walmart, Lowe’s, and Sprouts or in local grocery stores. Here’s a plastic bag drop-off location finder, just enter your zip code, and soon you’ll find one.
Are black plastic garbage bags biodegradable?
Sadly, black plastic garbage bags aren’t biodegradable. Well, they are… But after decades.
They are mostly made out of polyethylene (PE), the most common plastic in use today, which makes them very difficult to degrade even if they stay buried 10 feet underground for several years in a landfill.
In fact, a study published in the Journal of Applied Polymer Science showed that a single sheet of polyethylene only showed partial degradation when kept in moist soil for 12 to 32 years.
Why does it matter if you use environmentally-friendly trash bags?
In addition to their inability to degrade and their ability to pollute soil, plastic bags cause major damage to marine wildlife. Most people on the planet may not care whether or not they use different bags to lessen their negative impact on the environment, but once they become aware of the damage they cause, it does matter.
It is estimated that 500 billion plastic bags are consumed worldwide every year, and since they are not recyclable just imagine the amount of undecomposed bags that end up in landfills, rivers, and seas. Although several countries have passed laws to ban single-use plastics, there is still a long way to go, and by using environmentally friendly trash bags you are helping the cause from your home. One step at a time.
What is the difference between compostable and biodegradable garbage bags?
The terms "compostable" and “biodegradable” are often used interchangeably but even though they are similar, they’re not the same thing. Not all biodegradable bags are compostable.
The main difference between both terms lies in the degradation time and conditions.
A biodegradable product can be broken down by microorganisms, but this does not mean that it will convert into compost. Instead, as the name implies, compostable bags do convert into compost, good-quality organic fertilizer.
What Does Compostable Mean?
Basically, composting is a type of biodegradation that takes place in a compost pile under the presence of oxygen and elevated temperature, producing, of course, compost.
When we talk about a compostable product it means that the material is degraded by the action of organisms and microorganisms in these conditions, turning it into an organic compound that can be used as a natural fertilizer for agriculture and gardening.
The world of biodegradable products is marked by various certifications and standards to ensure eco-friendliness. Below are a few notable ones:
- Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI): With its Compostable Logo, BPI certifies that a product complies with ASTM D6400 (covering bags) or ASTM D6868 (focusing on packaging) standards.
- TUV AUSTRIA: This organization offers three distinct certifications: OK compost HOME S0014 (for home composting systems), SOIL S0014 (biodegradable), and OK compost INDUSTRIAL S0014 (for industrial composting systems).
- European Bioplastics Standard: The EN 13432 standard is employed for materials that break down within 12 weeks and fully biodegrade in six months. Keep an eye out for the Seedling Logo.
- Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA): The AS 5810 Home Compostable Logo is a rare standard indicating home compostability. AS 4736 is another prevalent standard, signifying suitability for commercial composting facilities.
What Does Biodegradable Mean?
On the other hand, a biodegradable product is one that decomposes within nature by the action of the environment and microorganisms. For example, a material that falls under the qualification of "biodegradable" is a bioplastic, made from biological material like plants rather than just fossil fuels.
However, biodegradable materials are designed to break down within landfills, not in home compost bins. Long story short, you won't get that sweet, nutrient-packed treat for your plants from only biodegradable products.
How do Compostable Trash Bags Help The Environment?
In addition to the fact that compostable bags can keep landfills free of any type of plastic or waste (they don't even have to end up in landfills in the first place), they go one step further by giving back to the soil the nutrients it needs through composting. It’s very rewarding to know that not only are you helping the environment by removing pollution, but you are also giving back that "something" that keeps it alive, and thriving.
Are Compostable Garbage Bags Worth It?
Yes, they are worth it! And if you want to know why, later on, we’ll give you all the details about them, whether they break down in home compost or not, how long they take to decompose, and more.
But in summary, just the fact that they do not pollute the environment in landfills and can be one of the components of organic compost for the garden makes compostable bags totally worth it.
Do compostable bags break down in home compost?
Yes, if your home composting bin maintains a minimum temperature of 45° C it can break down easily. There are also some plastics that are labeled as home compostable, meaning that they can break down even if the temperature in your bin isn’t that hot. Nevertheless, they will compost eventually.
One of the best compostable trash bags out there is the BioBag Compostable Bags (more on these a little later). These are certified in both America and Europe as compostable and also meet OK Compost HOME requirements.
How long do compostable bags take to decompose?
Compostable bags will completely degrade in 90 days or so, but it also depends on the temperature they are exposed to. If the composting system is at 60° C, it can break down within 30 days.
Can worms eat compostable bags?
Short answer: Yes... But be careful. This is a very controversial topic, some people claim that worms eat any material that is organic and some others state that you should never, ever, put compostable bags in your vermicompost. Well, this is not entirely true.
Some compostable bags will say whether they decompose through industrial processing or not or if they are even worm-friendly at all, so the option that compostable bags are the nemesis of our vermicompost is already ruled out.
Some compostable bag materials that worms can eat are paper, wood cellulose, and cornstarch, -although worms only eat thin layers of cornstarch bags, not the entire bag-, and other materials that have a neutral pH. But still, do your research before thinking about putting a compostable bag in your vermicompost.
How Thick/Durable Are Compostable Garbage Bags?
Compostable garbage bags can be as thick or as thin as the manufacturer wants them to be. Some are stronger than others but be aware that the majority suffer from leakages if they store wet food for weeks.
Do compostable items break down in landfills?
If a compostable item ends up in a landfill it needs to be exposed to oxygen, moisture, carbon, and nitrogen in order to break down. Composting is a very specific process, and if it doesn’t get exposed to these conditions, it won’t degrade.
If compostable items end up in an open landfill where oxygen is available, microorganisms and bacteria will eventually decompose them. But if they end up in the most common landfill, an anaerobic one, they will continue to exist in it for a very, very long time.
How do you dispose of compostable bags?
If your city allows it, compostable bags can go to your nearest curbside composting bin to be industrially composted. You can also compost them at home, as long as you do it the right way.
If you have an outdoor composting bin, it is easier to compost them since the temperature inside the bin can increase significantly.
But if you have an indoor composting bin, either a traditional compost bin or a vermicomposting bin can work. As mentioned earlier, worms can eat some materials. Just verify that the bag is suitable for home composting and give it a shot! Also, there are some hot water-soluble compostable bags.
Other alternatives to compostable and biodegradable trash bags:
Another option is to consider a reusable trash bag. As mentioned bioplastic is one option, but they are not perfect they still have a pretty large carbon footprint. Corn-based does produce fewer emissions than plastic, but it's still not the best option.
So what is? Well, reusable trash bags are your BEST bet! You know me, I love a good zero-waste solution! You can actually put your compostable waste right into your kitchen compost bin, you don't really need a bag. You can also use old newspapers to line your compost bin.
Earth Hero carries the Bagito. It's a really clever design and made from recycled plastic known as rPET Fabric. All of these are machine washable, easy to use, and super easy to store. Aren't you happy you have so many great choices to choose from?
So, Which garbage bag is better biodegradable or compostable?
As we reach the home stretch of the fight between biodegradable vs. compostable garbage bags, we can firmly state that if you want to clean up your surroundings while helping the environment in the most ideal way, we’ve got the winner: compostable garbage bags. They turn into natural fertilizer! What more can you ask for?
In all seriousness, compostable bags degrade way faster than their biodegradable counterparts and don’t leave residues, that’s why we find them much more eco-friendly.
However, if you don't have access to compost bins in any way shape, or form or aren’t ready yet to do the full transition, biodegradable bags are a good place to start. Are you team compostable or team biodegradable? Let us know!
We've got a ton of guides (and lots more to come) on The Eco Hub to help you compost the right way including:
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