Finding the best option for eco-friendly trash bags
It takes regular plastic trash bags more than one thousand years to degrade in a landfill, and less than three percent of plastic bags are recycled every year. This three percent accounts for 1.3 billion pounds of annual post-consumer plastic in the US alone. These startling statistics emphasize the importance of finding alternatives to standard plastic waste.
Finding “eco-friendly” trash bags is not difficult at many retailers today. Many retailers offer recycled or partially recycled bags, paper and biodegradable options, and some even offer compostable trash bags made from organic materials. There are also trash bag options which are made from more stretchy and thin plastic that promise to reduce waste over the long term.
With so many different options, how do we really know that our earth friendly trash bags are helping the environment instead of just costing us more money? The key is in researching the materials used in making the trash bags, and understanding their environmental implications.
What options are there for earth friendly trash bags?
There are numerous alternatives to standard plastic trash bags. From a price perspective, the cost of recycled, biodegradable or compostable trash bags is often comparable to many standard designs. From an environmental perspective, the difference in the use of standard bags versus these alternatives is immeasurable.
What’s on the market
If You Care Certified Compostable Trash Bags: These bags are made from non-GMO potato starch and compostable polymers. There is no plastic in these trash bags, and they are fully compostable in both commercial and municipal compost facilities.
If You Care Recycled Trash Bags: Made from 97% post consumer recycled polyethylene, only 2% color and 1% virgin polyethylene, these bags are very earth friendly. Using 2.2 lbs of recycle polyethylene instead of new plastic can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 Kg, and crude oil use by as much as 2 liters.
Natural Value Eco-friendly Trash Bags: Made from recycled materials, these bags degrade in 12 to 24 months, and are free of PVC and plasticizer.
Glad 100% Compostable Tall Kitchen Bags: One of the most popular brands of trash bag, Glad has created compostable trash bags that meet ASTM D6400 compost standards, and are certified by the BPI.
BioBag Tall Kitchen Bags: Made from plants, vegetable oils and compostable polymers, these bags degrade in 10-45 days. They are certified by BPI and meet ASTM D6400 standards.
Eco Friendly Bags: Designed to alleviate stress over breakage and leaks, these bags are made from intelligent plastic that is designed to break down in a short period of time while being bio-assimilated in the same way that leaves compost.
Green Genius: Manufactured in an environmentally friendly facilitiy in the U.S. these bags are made from 40% recycled materials, and meet ASTM D5511 biodegradability standards. These bags are not “compostable” but do contain a decomposition accelerant called EcoPure that makes the plastic edible to microbes that ordinarily would not eat plastic.
EconoGreen: EconoGreen bags are made from 100% recycled plastic combined with an additive that makes these bags 100% oxodegradable. This oxodegradation breaks down the carbon-carbon bonds in the plastic to literally reduce the molecular weight of the product. With the natural help of daylight, oxygen and heat, these bags effectively become nutrients for microbes.
The difference between corn and potato starch
Both corn and potato starch can be used to make compostable trash bags. While both are suitable alternatives to plastic waste, there are some differences that affect their degree of environmental friendliness. For example, potato starch requires less water and irrigation than corn starch, meaning that rainwater is enough. Additionally, corn grown to produce starch requires about 40 percent more land than potatoes grown to produce starch.
Ultimately, trash bags made from both corn and potato starch compost well and are significantly more earth friendly than plastic options. Unlike plastics, bags made from these materials are not as damaging to the environment and animal life, as they degrade much quicker than plastic and do not release harmful toxins into soil and the water supply as they degrade.
Pros to using earth friendly trash bags
There are many pros to using earth friendly trash bags in place of standard options. Some of these pros include:
Creating plastic means using fossil fuels, which deplete petroleum resources. Using biodegradable and compostable trash bags helps to turn attention to alternative resources like corn and renewable sources.
Plastic emits greenhouse gasses, which is a direct contributor to global warming. When plastic use is limited, so are greenhouse gas emissions, which is better for the environment, humanity and wildlife.
It is estimated that as many as one million sea creatures die every year due to plastic bags and garbage disposed of in our oceans and waterways. Using products that are either not made from plastic, or that have additives to break down plastic can drastically aid the effort in reducing the number of wildlife deaths.
Cons to using earth friendly trash bags
There are a few issues across the brand board with earth friendly trash bags that could be considered negatives to using them. These “cons” include:
Many of the most earth friendly options can only be purchased online, which can dissuade some consumers from purchasing them over the options available locally. In areas where earth friendly trash bags cannot be purchased locally, consumers without internet access may also be restricted from easy ordering.
While many earth friendly trash bag options are comparable to standard options, many others are not. Compostable and biodegradable bags, including those made with corn or potato starch, often are more expensive than recycled or standard options. Adding the higher price for some brands plus the cost of shipping, and many consumers may choose to shop locally for products that are readily available, even if their environmental impact is greater.
Durability is another common concern with biodegradable trash bags. Due to thinner plastic and “flimsy” materials, many consumers may find that their trash bags break or leak, which can be highly inconvenient.
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