Biodegradable and compostable bags are an eco-friendly alternative to regular plastic bags. Here are the best ones.
While there are many different areas you need to focus on to make your home plastic waste-free, trash bags are one of the most important areas to focus on.
If you spend a year counting how many plastic trash bags you use, it will likely be in the hundreds for a family home. And all those plastic bags literally end up in the trash. And that ultimately means that too many of them end up in nature.
So, to help you take this important step in better managing your waste, I’ve put this guide together to show you how to choose compostable and biodegradable plastic bags.
My top recommendation for the best biodegradable trash bags is this BioBag option. They are the perfect fit for medium-sized kitchen bins that you collect your food scraps in. And you can then simply transfer the full bag to your own compost or commercial composting facilities.
The rolls come with 100 compostable garbage bags that are made entirely from plant-based ingredients to make biodegradable plastic.
Even the packaging is made from recycled cardboard, and I have chopped it up to add to my compost pile.
The only thing I’d warn you about is to avoid getting the bags overly wet, as they then tend to start breaking down.
Why Do I Like It?
These compostable trash bags are the ideal size for collecting food scraps over several days.
These biodegradable garbage bags from UNNI are another great option if you manage your own compost and just want to collect food waste over a couple of days.
The size is ideal for most kitchen compost bins you can buy, and they are strong enough not to break up and leave a mess.
And if you order them in one of the bulk packs, you could have enough to keep you going for years and save a load of money in the process as well.
Just keep in mind that you want to avoid keeping these trash bags anywhere hot, as high temperatures seem to break them down.
Why Do I Like It?
They come in a very convenient box that makes pulling out new compostable bags a lot easier.
The next compostable trash bags I want to recommend are these ones from a company called Stout. And I order these about twice a year to use for regular household and kitchen waste that doesn’t go in the composter.
They are large enough to fit in the larger kitchen bin, and they don’t tear as easily as other compostable bags.
Just keep in mind that if you do put these into your composter that they take a bit longer to fully degrade as they are a bit thicker.
Why Do I Like It?
These trash bags are ideal for your household waste bins of up to 30 gallons in size.
These Reli biodegradable trash bags are another great option if you like buying things in bulk. You have the option of ordering a pack of 150 trash bags, and that should keep you going for over a year.
I also like the medium size as it makes them ideal for use around the garden to collect waste before I add it to a fresh compost pile.
I would just highlight that, in my experience, you don’t want to overfill them or add stuff that is very heavy, as the eco-plastic will tear.
Why Do I Like It?
Great-sized trash bags for use around the home and garden to collect stuff that you can add to the compost pile.
These biodegradable garbage bags are made of recycled paper, and I keep one in my work bag in case I need to pick up a few things throughout the day. Most stores still hand out regular plastic bags, so this is a great way to avoid them.
They are also great for gathering some paper and other dry carbon-rich materials suitable for your compost so that you can layer them in occasionally.
Why Do I Like It?
Great for collecting other dry compostable materials like paper and cardboard to add more carbon to your compost.
Here are some compostable trash bags that are great for dog owners to use when cleaning up after their dogs while out walking. They are thick and easy to seal tightly without breaking or letting smells out.
You can also use them for collecting compostable food waste in your kitchen and then just throw them into your compost bin.
Why Do I Like It?
The thick compostable bags don’t tear easily, making them ideal for cleaning up after your dog.
Our final recommendation for compostable trash bags is these ProGreen ones which are a lot tougher than most other products available. That means you don’t have to worry about pulling them out of the bin and breaking up into a complete mess on the floor.
I also like that they come on rolls of 100 trash bags, as that generally keeps me going for almost two years.
Just be careful when you detach the bags from the rolls. Sometimes the perforated edge isn’t that great, and you end up tearing the bag.
Why Do I Like It?
These stronger food scrap trash bags help avoid the mess that torn bags can leave in your bin.
Biodegradable trash bags are made of plant-based materials that look and even feel like plastic. But they are not made from fossil fuels or other chemicals that are toxic to the environment and damage the climate.
It’s also important to note that they are not the same as recyclable trash bags made from plastic or paper. While those types of trash bags are a step in the right direction, most of them still end up in landfills or nature.
When these biodegradable bags first came out years ago, I have to say that they were not that suitable for general waste. Unlike regular plastic bags, they would tear easily, and that meant you often had to deal with a mess when you tried taking the trash or compost material out.
Also, the definition and formula for bioplastic materials have significantly changed over the years.
What you used to get was a type of plastic that might fully break down after many years, and it wasn’t exactly what people had in mind when they thought they were doing the right thing.
Even if a bioplastic breaks down after a few years, that gives it a lot of time to do severe damage to animals.
I would also say that not all biodegradable bags are also suitable for your compost, as some of them still take a lot longer to fully break down. And that means you could have bits of bioplastic still left when you want to use your compost.
What you need to look out for these days are products that have official certifications to say they are biodegradable. I’ll get into more of this shortly.
Another option you’ll often see is compostable trash bags. So let’s take a look at those.
Compostable trash bags are made from biodegradable plant materials that can be broken down by microorganisms. And what you are ultimately left over with should be safe and not harmful to the environment.
While plastic bags can be broken down with some modern technologies, these are not compostable materials in the sense that you could use the end product to grow plants in your garden.
The key to compostable bags is the underlying materials and how easily they break down in a compost pile. For a bag to be compostable, it would typically be made of renewable materials like corn, sugarcane, or other plant-based starches.
When these end up on a compost pile, they will break down as quickly as other food waste, and in many cases, you won’t see a hint of them within 30-40 days.
The total length of time will depend on the thickness of the bioplastic, which can be a bit of a dilemma. If you buy the thicker ones to avoid them tearing, then they could take longer to fully degrade in your compost. But if you pick the thin ones, then you have to be careful how much you fill them and what you use them for.
Let’s take a look at the key difference between biodegradable and compostable bags next.
A lot of people think that biodegradable garbage bags are automatically compostable. But you have to be very careful to understand the difference between compostable and biodegradable bags.
All compostable bags are biodegradable, but not all biodegradable ones are compostable.
See, there are certain types of plastics made from petrochemicals that will break down in certain conditions.
But they break down into their chemical elements, and you don’t want those in your compost. This is one area where there is a lot of greenwashing to fool people into thinking they are buying something that is good for the environment.
What I suggest you do is focus on bags for composting as much as you can. They won’t be suitable for all types of waste. But for most of what a typical household needs to get rid of, they are going to work just fine.
Let me start with biodegradable garbage bags. I already mentioned above that these aren’t exactly the green solutions you should be looking for as they are often made using petrochemicals, and they don’t break down into safe materials.
Such biodegradable ones are really only suitable for trash that isn’t going in your compost or recycling bin. You definitely don’t want to use them for compostable food waste, whether you have your own compost pile or you bring it to a community service.
But you also have to be careful what you do with a compostable trash bag.
Some people falsely believe that they are fine for household waste hat goes to a landfill. But there is a big downside. When compostable materials end up in an oxygen-free environment like a landfill, then the breakdown will release methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas.
On the positive side, if the wind were to blow one of these bags away from a landfill, then they would do a lot less damage to the environment in the long term.
Still, it’s not the best option.
What you should use these trash bags for is collecting compostable food and garden waste. Those are the plant-based scraps from your kitchen and any plant clippings that you might want to gather up.
You can then simply add the collected waste, including the bag, to your own composter if you have one. Whether that’s a pile at the end of your garden or a container to keep things tidy, the bags should be unidentifiable after a month or two.
You can also use these bags if you drop compostable waste off at a community center or if your waste management company collects it.
When it comes to choosing biodegradable garbage bags, there are a few characteristics that you need to focus on in order to make sure you have the right ones.
It’s also likely that you’ll need more than one type depending on how many you use and what sizes you need.
The first thing you need to check out with compostable garbage bags is the size. It will usually be listed in gallons, but you can also take a closer look at the dimensions in inches.
For a small bin where you collect food waste in your kitchen, a two to three-gallon bag will work just fine. But if you want to collect larger amounts of stuff in your garden, then I suggest you look for a trash bag size over 25 gallons.
One of the big problems, even with some of the best biodegradable garbage bags, is that they often aren’t as durable as plastic trash bags. But, in my experience, the quality and durability in recent years have improved a lot.
What I suggest you do is read online reviews to see what customers are saying about how easily they tear.
The main thing to look out for is that the materials are plant-based and will fully decompose. There are some companies that use greenwashing techniques to make chemical-based conventional trash bags sound eco-friendly.
But with all the best compostable trash bags listed above, you’ll make a safe choice.
As mentioned above, not all biodegradable materials are also compostable. What you need to look out for are plant-based compostable materials like corn, sugarcane, and other starches.
These are materials that you can throw into your garden compost.
Personally, I have three different compostable and eco-friendly bags. I have one small type for collecting food in the kitchen, a larger 30-gallon one for garden waste, and another type that we use for bringing dogs on a walk.
One important thing to look out for is what type of certification you can see on trash bags. Sometimes, companies greenwash their products with self-sponsored certifications. But what you need to look out for are industry and government certifications that you can trust.
And finally, the best compostable trash bags we put together above all come from trusted eco-friendly brands. These aren’t companies that have created one type of compostable trash bag alongside dozens of plastic-based ones.
Yes, biodegradable trash bags work if you dispose of them under suitable conditions. These bags require air, moisture, and light to decompose. If they are placed in a landfill, they may take as much time to decompose as regular bags.
Biodegradable bags take 3 to 6 months to decompose. The duration of decomposition can change depending upon factors like the production process, moisture in the air, and temperature. That said, some biodegradable plastics can take much longer if the conditions aren’t right.
You can use reusable bags instead of trash bags. You can also line your trash can with newspaper, and buy packaging-free produce like fish and cheese. While I recommend going with biodegradable or compostable trash bags, you can also use the trash can as it is. Just wash the can after use.
The problems with biodegradable plastics are: they produce methane gas when they break down, they produce toxic byproducts such as microplastics upon degradation, it takes quite a while for them to decompose completely, they are almost impossible to recycle, and the use of agricultural land to produce raw materials (like corn starch) that are used to make them can potentially drive food prices up.
Yes, biodegradable bags are better than plastic because they can decompose within 3 to 6 months. Take note though that the decomposition process requires favorable conditions to work optimally. Compostable bags, on the other hand, are fully biodegradable. They decompose in a home environment, making them perfect for domestic use. They are a better choice than normal plastic ones.
No, you cannot put biodegradable bags in the green bin. The green bin is only for recyclable things. These bags are not recyclable. Not only this, but they can also interfere with the recycling procedure of eligible materials. So, these trash bags, biodegradable as they are, shouldn’t still be put in the green bin as they can ruin a whole batch of recyclable materials.
You cannot put biodegradable bags in the recycling bin. They are not recyclable. And because they are not recyclable, they should be placed in the black/grey bin. Biodegradable trash bags are characterized as residual waste. So, they are either thrown off in a landfill or used as an energy source.
Kitchen bags are not recyclable. These bags cannot be processed at the recycling facilities. Ultimately, the bags end up in landfills. Therefore, put the kitchen trash holders in the grey/black trash cans when you are done with them.
At this stage, you should have all the information you need to switch away from regular plastic trash bags. The right decision for the environment is to switch to fully compostable materials.
What you’ll also find is that once you start using them, you become a lot more conscious about what kind of waste you are creating. There’s a psychological effect when you see plastic waste being collected, and that’ll encourage you to become even more eco-conscious.
All of the above best biodegradable trash bags are also fully compostable, and you can use them in your garden compost pile or bring them to an industrial composting facility.