biodegradable-trash-bags

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If your goal is to change the world by reducing your carbon footprint, then every step counts. Moving from the traditional single-use, virgin plastic trash bag to biodegradable bags or even compostable trash bags is a fantastic place to start.

There are essential differences in biodegradable trash bags and compostable trash bags, so be sure to check out the sister article to this one. Spoiler alert: compostable trash bags are better for the environment, but there are drawbacks. They cannot be recycled, require the user to take the trash out more frequently, and do not have a drawstring or handle.

If your goal is more modest but still focused on greener alternatives without compromising convenience, this list is for you. The rankings go from most eco-friendly to least.

Ever wondered Why Drano Is Bad For The Environment? Learn more about our extensive research here!

What Are The Best Biodegradable Trash Bags?

Best Biodegradable

Pros

  • BPI Certified to meet ASTM D6400 specifications for industrial composting
  • Soy-based ink and chlorine-free
  • Stronger than fully compostable bags
  • Excellent for kitchen trash

Cons

  • No handle or drawstring
  • Not as strong as the non-biodegradable garbage bags
  • The packaging only ships 12 per box

Brand

Repurpose is a compostable paper goods company and has kept more than 3.5 million pounds of waste out of landfills since its launch.

Founded in Los Angeles, CA, their small team provides plant-based, compostable, and reusable alternatives to plastic pollution nationwide by using plant-based bioplastics, upcycled materials, and practical design.

Compliance

These 13-gallon tall kitchen trash bags meet ASTM D6400 specifications for industrial composting but are not backyard compostable. That makes these an excellent alternative to the traditional plastic bags but not as good as compostable alternatives.

Material

They make all of their products with fibers such as corn, beets, wood pulp, cassava, or bamboo. These bags are BPA-free, use soy-based ink, and are chlorine-free.

The bags are 24 Inches x 24 Inches, 0.95 mils thick.

Shipping

A recurring problem with many great products is in their packaging; these are no different. They come in quantities of 12, which is low and inside of a box.

Production

They manufacture their bags in China.

Best Biobased

Pros

  • Biobased is better than petroleum-based
  • The handle is a great feature to have
  • 100% recyclable
  • Made In USA

Cons

  • Sugar cane is my least favorite source for bioplastics. It has arguably had the most significant negative impact on our environment in comparison to any other agricultural commodity
  • Not biodegradable or compostable bags

Brand

Hippo Sak is a new kid on the block, but parent company Crown Poly, Inc has been around for 30 years. They started by entering the front end grocery bag business, but with Hippo Sak, it has now grown into the consumer trash bag market.

With products from plant-based, recycled ocean plastic, and compostable films, Hippo Sak dedicates their efforts to be a leader in sustainable products.

As an aside, Crown Poly is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPC) accredited with a superior rating and has won the California state Waste Reduction Awards Program (WRAP) for 13 years. If you know anything about California regulations, you will know that this is an impressive feat.

They are headquartered and manufacture in Huntington Park, CA.

Compliance

These kitchen trash bags are 88% USDA Certified Biobased. While this disqualifies them from being BPI certifiable, this is still a massive improvement over using virgin garbage bags.

Material

They make these garbage bags out of Sugar Cane.

The bags are 15.5 Inches x 8.5 Inches x 29 Inches + 7 Inch Handles, 1.02 mils thick.

Shipping

You can order this product in higher quantities: 45 or 90 per box. Overall, this is going to reduce waste slightly over purchasing multiple boxes of 12, for example.

The company redid its packaging recently because its larger box did not have the “Made From Plants” symbol. It was a technical and logistical error on the company’s part, but they corrected the issue. Both the 45 and 90 quantities are plant-based.

It does not ship carbon neutral.

Production

They manufacture their trash bag in California.

Best Post-Consumer Recycled

Pros

  • 13 and 42-gallon capacity available
  • UL ECOLOGO Certified and counts toward LEED (making this a wise choice for businesses and buildings)
  • 1% For The Planet member
  • Closed-Loop Manufacturing
  • Stronger than biobased
  • Available in high quantities

Cons

  • Post-consumer recycled plastic is okay, but not great for our environment
  • No handle or drawstring
  • No insight into the parent or holding company

Brand

Evolution Trash Bags started as an online store by Sustainable Goods Corp, which I believe is a holdings company. Google News couldn’t even find anything on them.

Regardless, they stand to do a lot of good for the environment. Their motto is “As affordable as your everyday trash bag,” which I like. Again, I designed this post for people wanting to start making an impact but aren’t ready to uproot their entire lifestyle.

The company belongs to 1% For The Planet and manufactures using a closed-loop recycling process. It matters because it keeps over 100 pounds of plastic from making its way to landfills, lends itself to the highest quality resins, and even makes for a more durable bag.

Compliance

These bags are not biobased, biodegradable, or compostable. They are recyclable.

However, their bag exceeds EPA Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines by at least 700% and the USGBC LEED Rating Systems by at least 700%.

They are the only retail trash bags in North America that are both UL ECOLOGO Certified and EPA compliant.

Material

They make this trash bag with at least 70%-94% (third-party certified) post-consumer recycled content.

The bags are 24 Inches x 32 Inches, 0.85 mils thick.

Shipping

The packaging is 100% recyclable and comes in two quantities: 50 or 120 per box. The 120 is broken into two rolls but still shipped together using the same packaging.

Production

Made in the USA.

Better Than Nothing

Pros

  • Seventh Generation is a great company
  • Drawstring closure
  • More sustainable than 100% virgin plastic
  • 65% of PCR fiber packaging
  • Most durable holding bag on this list

Cons

  • More virgin plastic than I like
  • 20 bags might be low for some

Brand

There is a lot to love about Seventh Generation.

They opened their doors in 1988 in Burlington, Vermont, hoping that its products will have a positive impact on the next seven generations. They were “going green” before going green was cool. They earned the title of Certified B Corporation in 2007. The company commits 1% of each employee’s paid time to volunteer in their communities.

Their mission is powerful because they bridge the gap between average consumers trying to do good and full-blown #eco-warriors.

Compliance

These bags are not biobased, biodegradable, or compostable. They are recyclable.

Material

Unfortunately, these bags use both virgin and post-consumer recyclable plastic. 65% PCR/35% virgin plastic, thus earning my Better Than Nothing title.

The bags are 24Inches x 24 Inches, 0.90 mils thick.

Shipping

Their packaging uses 60% post-consumer recycled fiber and comes in quantities of 20.

Production

They manufacture these bags in Vermont.

Best Commercial

Pros

  • BPI Certified to meet ASTM D6400 specifications for industrial composting
  • Warehouses in Lakewood, New Jersey; Sparks, Nevada; and Atlanta, Georgia
  • 12-16-gallon, 20-30-gallon, 40-50-gallon, and 55-60-gallon compostable bags available
  • The company offers 100% satisfaction guarantee
  • Same day and free shipping available
  • Great for bulk purchasing

Cons

  • Does not count toward LEED
  • The contents of their compostable bags are unknown

Brand

PlasticPlace has been serving its clients for 35 years and specializes in plastic bags. While I hate plastic, it’s something that most people have to deal with in the workplace. It is good to see a company offering a variety of solutions, including BPI Certified Biodegradable trash bags for commercial use.

Compliance

These Food Scraps bags are both biodegradable and compostable inside of an industrial composter. They are BPI certified to meet ASTM D6400 specifications.

Material

I do not know the exact makeup of these bags; however, their BPI certification proves that these are plant-based bags. I reached out to Plastic Place directly for more information and will be updating once I hear back. 

The bags are 38 Inches x 58 Inches, 0.85 mils thick.

Shipping

The bags are available in quantities of 35 up to 420.

Production

I’m not sure where these bags come from, but I asked the company directly and will provide an update once I find out.

How To Save Money Long Term

Biodegradable and eco-friendly products are going to be more expensive until they become subsidized by governments or the economy demands it. That’s one of our primary goals with this site. We encourage our visitors to cast their purchasing votes in the direction of favorable companies that also love the planet. But is there another way to save money right now?

Yes. It’s called Thrive Market. It would be the love child of Costco and Whole Foods if they had a corporate child.

Their membership costs the same as what you pay at Costco but is carbon neutral and a certified B-Corp. Like most membership business models, you receive 25-50% off retail prices on over 6,000 non-GMO and sustainable products.

If you plan on making eco-friendly a lifestyle, sign up for their free trial and see if you like it. If you don’t make your membership fee back through savings in the first year, Thrive Market will credit you the difference when you renew.

It’s a no-brainer for most people, but make sure that it’s right for you before subscribing. I started with their monthly membership and upgraded for the full-year afterward.

How to Choose The Best Biodegradable Trash Bags

Brand 

Is the corporation reputable, and do you share their mission? Is the company committed to carbon neutrality? I recommend visiting their home page and about us page to find out what they are doing for their community, employees, and the planet. Also, is the company a certified B Corporation?

Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good.

Cast your vote in their direction.

Compliance

biodegradable-trash-bags
compostable-trash-bags

Do the trash bags pass Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) ASTM D6400 and TÜV Rheinland (TUV) EN 13432 standards?

It determines whether or not the bags are certifiably backyard compostable, industrial/commercial compostable, or neither.

If you plan on composting in your backyard, which is the most eco-friendly thing to do, look for TUV certification. If you plan on disposing of your bags at an industrial composting facility, then look for BPI. 

If they hold neither certification, they are not compostable or biodegradable trash bags

Here’s the catch. If you plan to send the bags to the dump under the notion that decomposition is more manageable, consider this.

Landfill environments are different from composting ones. They are generally sealed and without light and air, making it difficult for most things to break down. In this case, know that your decision to invest in biodegradable bags was a significant first step, but it may not give you the desired result.

Know that it is not in vain, however, because using recycled, non-virgin plastic, and plant-based materials are better than the alternative. If you are not ready to commit to full-blown backyard composting, then this is a solid step in the right direction. 

If you are ready to move forward with composting, check out our top picks here! [internal link]

Material

Which plants and elements are the trash bags composed? How thick is the material used measured in milliliters (mL, Mil, Mils)?

On the one hand, thicker material implies more exceptional durability while, on the other hand, it also means more waste. Plus, the exact formulas for their bag might say that their thickness does not equate to an apple to apple comparison.

Also, be sure to look for a Best By date or other storage requirements. You won’t see that on your typical trash bag container because they will last for 1000 years without any trouble! 

I look for this because it generally indicates that the bags are sensitive to sun, water, and heat, which is a promising sign and implies that they are compostable. Most manufacturers recommend a best by date of one year from the date of purchase.

Materiality varies. Natural biodegradable complexion includes the following mix of properties:

  • Plant Starch (i.e., corn and sugarcane); Is it GMO?
  • A Carbohydrate extracted from the endosperm of corn often used as a thickening agent for food recipes
  • Polylactic Acid (PLA)
  • A thermoplastic polymer derived from renewable resources like corn starch or sugar cane commonly used as filament in 3D printing!
  • PBAT
  • A biodegradable random copolymer with enhanced compostability compared to PLA which generally requires industrial composting conditions of over 60 degrees celsius
  • Post-Consumer Recycled Plastic 
  • A better alternative to virgin plastics because manufacturers reclaim material. Used plastic undergoes washing, regrounding, and pelletizing to form new post-consumer content.

Shipping

What type of packaging are they using?

The last thing that I want is to reduce my efforts to reduce waste by adding more packaging that I will need to throw in the trash. Look for post-consumer materials and less of it at that. I prefer recycled wrapping rather than a box where possible.

Does the product ship carbon neutral

Again, we’re looking at every way possible for reducing environmental impact. According to the World Economic Forum, shipping accounts for somewhere between 2% and 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Companies are achieving carbon-neutral transportation by investing in better machinery, packaging, and renewable energies or by purchasing carbon offsets.

Production

Where are the bags sourced? 

The largest producers of plastic bags manufacture in Australia, Austria, China, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, and the United States. 

Are There Biodegradable Trash Bags?

Absolutely, and they are much better than your typical trash bags that continue using virgin plastics and cardboard packaging. Think of these bags as enormous single-use shopping bags that weigh the same depending on where you go.

This plastic grocery bag from Stater Bros weighs about the same as a generic virgin plastic trash bag purchased from Costco.

It feels unnecessary to use virgin plastic when there are so many brands promoting high-quality post-consumer trash bags, others made from the scraps leftover from long production runs, and bioplastics made from organic material and industrial processes.

How Long Do Biodegradable Bags Take to Decompose?

Your biodegradable trash bags should take about 90 to 180 days to decompose in the proper environment.

Brands like to showcase their commitment to our planet by marketing this well.

At an industrial composting facility, bags decompose quickly because of higher temperatures and consistency. At home, your bags may take longer depending on your equipment, location, and the time of year, but some compostable trash bags will still degrade quickly regardless! These are the unicorns and best for our planet. The drawback is that some people complain that these bags begin degrading while in use. These trash bags simply require more awareness from their users.

A problem can emerge, however, if you do not dispose of your trash bags appropriately. Biodegradable bags have this problem more than compostable trash bags. Plus, as a negative consequence of the “greenwashing revolution”, not all products are as biodegradable as they claim to be.

If an item passes BPI certification but finds its way to a landfill, your trash can take as long as any other to degrade. The dump is not conducive to decomposition. It can take a few years and even decades to decompose in that environment.

Do Biodegradable Trash Bags Work?

Yes, they do. There are bags with better reputations than others and also some caveats to consider, but overall these trash bags work like just like their virgin counterparts.

Things to consider.

  • Get in the habit of taking the trash out slightly more regularly. Some bags are less reliable when overstuffed and too heavy
  • Try using smaller trash bags that force you to take out your trash more often. The standard tall trash can is 13 gallons, so try using 4-gallon or even 8-gallon bags and only use them for food scraps
  • Using slightly more biodegradable bags or compostable bags is better than using fewer bags but made from virgin plastics and non-renewable material
  • As part of your overarching goal of using becoming sustainable, do your best to produce less waste in the first place
  • Be sure to manage your waste more effectively by composting at home or ensuring that your biodegradable trash and compostable trash makes it to a proper facility

Final Thoughts

If you are new to this whole eco-friendly thing, don’t sweat it. Buying non-virgin plastic trash bags is a fantastic place to start. Afterward, you might be ready to graduate to compostable bags, which are that much better for our environment. Perhaps one day, you will even invest in a solid composter and help return your carbon footprint to the soil from which it came.

However, we aren’t there yet, so I recommend that you start with the Repurpose Tall Kitchen trash bags. See them here on Amazon. It is an excellent alternative to traditional plastic bags. If you are worried about reliability or quantities, opt for the biobased Hippo Sak bags with handle. You can also find them on Amazon by clicking here.

Do consider subscribing to Thrive Market. You will save a lot of money in the long term if your goal is to shop consciously and responsibly.

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