It’s easy to pinpoint what we love about using plastic trash bags. They’re super convenient, keep the kitchen clean, and make chores that much easier. Unfortunately, the negative effects on the environment are pretty hefty as plastic uses the finite resource of mined oil for its production, it is not biodegradable, and when it does degrade it only turns into microplastics that leach into the ground soil and groundwater systems. Thankfully if you are willing to be open to the options there are several alternatives to plastic trash bags that don’t harm the ecosystem, don’t use finite resources (oil), and can be part of a more sustainable way of living

#1. No Trash Bag At All

If you are already composting your food waste scraps and properly recycling (Bay Area, Miami, Phoenix), the only trash you might have may not be that dirty so to speak. 

  • Take a quick inventory of what you are tossing on a daily, weekly basis.
  • What is it?
  • Mostly packaging materials? Fast food containers? Items that cannot be recycled?
  • Do you need a trash bag for this type of waste or can you empty it straight into your curbside container?
  • Benefits: going plastic-free, saving money, and making a positive impact on the world’s ecosystem. 

#2. DIY Paper or Newspaper Trash Bag

Besides going bag-free, the next best choice would be to make your own bag from recycled paper. Reusing what you previously used paper bags, paper mailing material, or craft paper that you might have on hand already is one of the greenest choices for garbage bags. If you’re someone who still gets a daily or weekend newspaper, you can use this material to easily make trash can liners for your garbage. 

  • This method effectively reduces any garbage moisture that might contaminate your garbage can meaning fewer cleanings.
  • Also great for placement in offices, school rooms, kid’s rooms, bedrooms, and bathrooms.
  • Newspaper is recyclable and biodegradable, so no harm is done to the environment in any way.
  • Here’s a quick YouTube tutorial on how to make one.

#3. Compostable Plant-based Trash Bags 

Made of corn starch, sugar cane, and surplus crops are just a few of the plant materials that make up compostable trash bags.

  • Using compostable trash bags is great for transporting large amounts of organic waste, such as yard clipping, garden weeds, or any type of outdoor material to your local or city composting service. 
  • These can also be used for trash that goes to a landfill as it means the decomposition will result in organic matter versus microplastic because they are made from plant-based materials. 
  • It’s relatively easy to find compostable trash bags, some may even be available in your local supermarket; if not they are found online. 
  • HoldOn 
  • Open Nature Trash Bags Compostable
  • ProGreen
  • Thrive Market, 100% Compostable Food Scrap Bags 
  • UNNI

NOTE: “Compostable” does not necessarily mean you can add the bag to your own compost bin.

  • Most “compostable” bags on the market need the strength of commercial industrial composting to break down that material.
  • In these industrial sites, the compost reaches higher temperatures that can facilitate this action.
  • The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) label is one to keep a lookout for and the BPI website offers an easy way to search for compostable products to be industrially composted. 

#4. Trash Bags Made From Recycled Plastic 

Not a perfect choice as it’s still plastic, but definitely a much greener choice than using virgin materials. Choosing to use plastic trash bags made from recycled plastic is a positive step in helping the environment. These are some popular and highly rated brands and companies helping us do the good fight.


Let’s first remember that the most eco-friendly trash bag is one that we DON’T use. Challenge yourself and your family to see how little waste you can produce week by week. The latest data shows that recently America had the highest year ever of generating garbage (posted by the Environmental Protection Agency). To really make an environmental difference, take stock of your purchasing habits. Work to purchase secondhand, limit one-time-use products and plastics, and definitely make sure to take part in your local community’s composting initiatives. Plastic has such a wide range of damaging impacts on our own bodies, our environment, and to all wildlife that it touches. Any time you use plastic you are using finite resources and adding toxins to an already overburdened ecosystem. The alternatives to plastic trash bags presented above can easily become the new norm in your household with just a little adjustment and a commitment to participate in creating a plastic-free and healthy planet for generations to come. 


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