Our Guide To Eco-Friendly, Biodegradable & Compostable Trash Bags

eco-friendly trash bags
6 min reading time

While the world has recently started banning the sale of plastic shopping bags, there’s another big plastic bag that’s not quite eco-friendly: the trash bag.

It’s not easy to just stop using trash bags. Where are you going to put all of your waste

A recent study indicated that in California, the sale of small trash bags jumped 120% after the banning of plastic grocery bags.

No Trash Bag Will Break Down In a Landfill—Period

We hate to be a downer, but because of the way landfills are designed, nothing biodegrades very quickly. There is an acute lack of sunlight, oxygen, and moisture, the three crucial ingredients for decomposition.

Don’t be fooled—no bag labeled compostable or biodegradable is going to break down any faster in a landfill compared to a standard plastic trash bag. Both plastic trash bags and “biodegradable” trash bags can take hundreds of years to break down.

“The public looks at biodegradable as something magical, even though the term is mostly meaningless. This is the most used and abused and misused word in our dictionary right now. Simply calling something biodegradable and not defining in what environment it is going to be biodegradable and in what time period it is going to degrade is very misleading and deceptive.”

Ramani Narayan, chemical engineer at Michigan State University, and science consultant to the Biodegradable Plastics Institute.

Biodegradable vs. Compostable: What’s the Difference?

The terms biodegradable and compostable might sound the same, but there’s a difference.

Both biodegradable and compostable trash bags are typically made from bioplastics—plant starch that is processed to create a biodegradable plastic.

There’s a simple way of looking at it: all plastic that is compostable is biodegradable, but plastic that is biodegradable is not necessarily compostable.

If you wish to compost your waste, it’s necessary to buy compostable bags—biodegradable won’t cut it.

Compostable Bags

Compostable bags are designed to break down into compost under specific conditions. For a bag to be commercially labeled “compostable”, it must meet federal guidelines for breaking down at an industrial composting facility.

ASTM Standards D6400 and D6868 cover the requirements for a bag to be labeled “compostable”, but this covers only industrial composting, not composting at home. These bags require the special conditions offered by a commercial composting facility.

Basically, unless a bag is indicated to be suitable for home composting, don’t try to compost it at home. If you want to compost your waste at home, dumping the bag out into the compost bin is the safest bet.

Biodegradable Bags

As mentioned above, a biodegradable bag isn’t necessarily compostable. Most biodegradable bags are made from plastic that is derived from corn-based materials.

There’s a problem with biodegradable bags, though: they simply just break down into smaller and smaller pieces.

They can’t be composted and as such, will end up in a landfill where it won’t break down in any reasonable amount of time.

One concern about biodegradable bags is that they may give off methane gas, a greenhouse gas that’s even worse than carbon dioxide.

Compostable & Biodegradable Bags Aren’t Recyclable

Never put a compostable or biodegradable bag into the recycling. They can’t be recycled, and this would only cause a mess at the recycling plant.

How To Use Compostable Bags

If you truly want to use compostable bags, here are some pointers.

  • Only put organic material in the bags—food waste, mainly.
  • You have to either compost all of your organic waste at home, or with municipal compost facilities. It can’t go into the trash or landfill.
  • Take the bags out to be composted as quickly as possible. These bags are not liquid-proof and will leak, and some can even rip easily.
ProGreen 100% Compostable Bags 13 Gallon
Quantity: 30 bags
Materials: Corn starch
Cost: ~$15
Sizes: 13 Gallons
Where to Buy: Amazon

Starting big, these 13 gallon 100% compostable bags cover a lot of space while making a small impact.

ProGreen 13 gallon bags are great for larger trash bins, such as kitchen bins. Because these bags are 100% compostable, they will break down faster than a standard plastic trash bag. ProGreen recommends you change these bags every 3-5 days. ProGreen also offers 100% compostable bags in various sizes to fit smaller trash bins (2.6 – 33 Gallons).

Hippo Sak 13 Gallon Plant-Based Quantity: 45 bags
Materials: Sugar Cane
Cost: ~$14
Sizes: 13 Gallons
Where to Buy: Amazon

If you’re looking for a strong trash bag that’s also biodegradable check out Hippo Sak.

Hippo Sak Plant-Based bags are a USDA Certified Biobased Product. This means 88% of the product is plant-based. These bags are “handy” in that they have reinforced handles. They also feature reinforced seams ensuring no leaking or breaking. Perfect for the kitchen.

For the committed, you can buy up to 90 bags at a time. And these bags are 100% recyclable. They will certainly make a dent in your carbon footprint.

UNNI 100% Compostable Trash Bags Quantity: 100 bags
Materials: Corn Starch and Plant-based Materials
Time to Decompose: 180 days
Cost: ~$12
Sizes: 2.6 Gallons
Where to Buy: Amazon

UNNI (U ‘n’ I) offers smaller, 100% compostable trash bags. These are perfect for counter composting and small bins. UNNI is certified by the US Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI). They are also Certified OK Compost Home Europe. This guarantees these bags will break down 100%.

Being made out of corn starch and plant-based materials, these bags are eco-friendly. They also come in a variety of sizes (2.6 – 65 gallons) meeting all of your needs.

Show oceans and landfills some love by trying UNNI compostable bags.

EcoSafe 7 Gallon Compostable Trash Bags Quantity: 25 – 600 bags
Materials: Corn Plastic
Time to Decompose: 50 – 100 days
Cost: ~$14 – $114
Sizes: 7 Gallons
Where to Buy: Green Paper Products

EcoSafe’s 7-gallon compostable trash bag is the perfect option for medium bins.

These BPI certified bags are eco-friendly and non-toxic. They are made in the US and show you the impact you’re making. If you buy a 25 pack of these bags, you save nearly 5 miles worth of auto emissions and 5 days worth of bulb energy! Your small step can save miles.

OKKEAI Biodegradable Trash Bags 13 Gallon Quantity: 60
Materials: Plant Starch Material
Cost: ~$19
Sizes: 13 Gallon
Where to Buy: Amazon

Okkeai 13 gallon trash bags are made from plant starch materials. They are great for larger bins, both round and rectangular. The bags are leak-proof and tear-resistant hauling food scraps to wine bottles. They’re also recyclable, compostable, and non-toxic.

BioBag Compostable 23 Gallon Quantity: 48 (pack of 4)
Materials: Plant Starches, Vegetable Oils, Polymers
Cost: ~$18
Sizes: 13 Gallon
Where to Buy: Amazon

BioBag is out to win all certifications! They are BPI certified, Certified Non-GMO, and OK Compost Home Certified. When they’re not winning certifications, they’re free to use in larger bins.

BioBags are made in the US. They are comprised of plant starches, vegetable oils, and fully compostable polymers. That’s a fancy way of saying BioBags are compostable. Why not brighten up your trash bins with BioBags?

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