7 Best Alternatives to Plastic Trash Bags in 2021

alternatives to plastic trash bags

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We should all be looking to cut out our reliance upon single-use plastics. While the message has finally got through about shopping bags, what should you use to replace your single-use plastic trash bags? 

Read on and find out what are the best alternatives to plastic trash bags, including our favorite – the 100% Compostable Trash Bags by Unni.

The best eco-conscious alternatives to plastic trash bags: our top picks

To help you quickly find a solution that really works for your lifestyle, we’ve listed some of the best alternatives to plastic trash bags below. 

All are readily available and are a definite improvement upon conventional plastic trash bags.

1. Unni 100% Compostable Trash Bags

If you are looking for compostable trash bags for your municipal collection system then you’ll want to pick up some of these Unni 100% Compostable Trash Bags. 

UNNI ASTM D6400 100% Compostable Trash Bags, 13 Gallon, 49.2 Liter, 50 Count, Heavy Duty 0.85 Mils, Tall Kitchen Trash Bags, Food Waste Bags, US BPI and Europe OK Compost Home Certified, San Francisco

Certified, labeled, and capable of breaking down completely in 180 days, even if you are not intending on composting, these plant-based garbage bags still make an excellent alternative to plastic trash bags. 

What we like:

  • Plastic and petroleum-free – these compostable trash bags are made from plant cellulose making them a better choice for nature and the planet.  
  • BPI-certified – certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute, you can be certain that these bags will break down without any negative impact upon compost quality. Chances are if you use a municipal composting service, they will require you to leave out bags with BPI logos.  
  • Suitable for backyard, municipal & industrial composting – whereas some composting trash bags will only break down in industrial facilities, these bags will also break down in your backyard. 
  • Leave behind just CO2, water, and humus – when placed in a compost environment this is all these bags leave behind. 

What we don’t like:

  • Not very durable – as to be expected with most compostable bags, you’ll need to handle them with a bit of extra care. 
  • Difficult to secure – being a little smaller than your standard 13-gallon version and without a drawstring top, it can be tricky to secure them in place within your trash can. 

A firm favorite, if you want to reduce your plastic waste, then these plastic-free garbage bags make a highly convenient alternative that can also be used for municipal composting services. 

2. Planet Wise Small Diaper Pail Liner

This five-gallon reusable trash bag by Planet Wise is a great way to reduce your reliance upon single-use plastics. 

Planet Wise Small Diaper Pail Liner - Celestial Sea

Available in a range of fun colors and prints, it’s a highly popular choice that looks great teamed with a 20-quart trash basket for cutting down the amount of plastic you send to landfill in style. 

What we like:

  • Machine washable – easy to clean, simply throw this reusable trash bag in the wash when it starts to get a little dirty and keep reusing it. You can also rinse it out by hand as needed.  
  • Water-resistant – if all your trash was clean and dry, you wouldn’t be using a bag, right? So, chances are you need a trash bag that can keep your damp garbage safely contained, just like this water-resistant model with its polyurethane laminate lining.
  • Anti-bacterial – bacterial and fungal growth is limited by this bag’s PUL construction for a more hygienic way to contain your waste. 
  • Fits different sizes/shapes – thanks to its elasticated top, this handy reusable trash bag fits most small cans with a 34-56-inch circumference.  

What we don’t like:

  • Small five-gallon size – ideal for low-waste households, just bear in mind if you are new to cutting down your waste that this model won’t be compatible with your average family-sized trash can. 

Even if you still need a disposable bag for your trash collection, get several of these handy reusable trash bags to use around your home. You can use them in your bathroom, bedroom, and sitting room, and tip them directly into your main waste container on trash collection day. All in all, these are a highly popular, value for money choice that’s also great quality. 

3. K.A.N Bags Reusable Recycling and Garbage Bag

This reusable recycling and garbage bag by KAN Bags is a great size that works perfectly with your standard kitchen trash can. 

13 Gallon Reusable Recycling & Garbage Bag

Thanks to its 13-gallon capacity it’s ideal for storing, then tipping out a weekly collection into your outside trash can. Made from recycled canvas, it’s a sturdy and strong equivalent to single-use plastic trash bags. 

What we like:

  • Machine-washable – rinse this bag out as needed, or for a full-on easy clean, simply stick it in your washing machine. 
  • Waterproof – this reusable trash bag will keep all your messy waste inside, preventing odors and moisture from getting out. Its leak-proof construction is essential for transporting it through your home without creating a mess.  
  • Built-in carry handles –  developed to take up to 40lbs load, these sturdy handles won’t break and will last for the full lifespan of your bag. They also make it extra easy to grab and go. 
  • Extremely durable – thanks to its durable canvas construction, designed to last for thousands of washes, these bags are not only long-lasting, they can also take large and heavy loads. 

What we don’t like:

  • Doesn’t close tightly shut – if you need a recycling bag to transport in your vehicle this model does not close tightly shut. The best you can do is to tie the handles together and make sure it doesn’t tip over in transit. 

If you need a highly durable, reusable trash bag, go for this top-selling version by KAN Bags. Easy to maintain and transport, whether you need a recycling trash bag or a regular one, it makes an outstanding choice that should last you for many years to come. 

4. Evolution Trash Bags

If you can’t do without the convenience of a plastic trash bag, make your next purchase a box of recycled plastic Evolution Trash Bags.

Evolution Trash Bags: White Rhino Super Tough Trash Bag(42gal, 2mil Thick)-32 Bags-Made with 94% Certified PCR Material

Made from 94% post-consumer recycled LLDPE, these trash bags are a much greener choice than your standard ones. 

What we like:

  • Proven lower environmental impact – the closed-loop recycling process used to create these bags has been proven to have a lesser environmental impact than bags made from virgin plastic. 
  • Heavy-duty construction – they can hold large quantities without breaking or sagging.
  • Member of 1% for the Planet – this company takes the environment seriously and donates one percent of their gross sales back to certified non-profit environment causes. 
  • 100% recyclable packaging – all packaging is completely recyclable, so you won’t have to worry about any unnecessary extra waste going to landfill. 

What we don’t like:

  • Non-biodegradable – these are plastic trash bags, after all. However, at landfill, even biodegradable bags don’t break down. 

Highly convenient, super strong, and made from recycled plastic. If you are looking for a more eco-friendly alternative to regular trash bags, Evolution Trash Bags are a great step in the right direction to eliminate your usage of single-use plastics. 

5. The Home Depot Paper Lawn Bags

Strong and durable, these paper lawn bags by the Home Depot are a popular choice for compostable or recyclable trash.

The Home Depot 49022-10PK Heavy Duty Brown Paper Lawn and Refuse Bags for Home and Garden, 30 gal (10 Lawn Bags)

Sold in packs of multiples of five, if you need a large heavy-duty, plastic-free garbage bag, be sure to check them out. 

What we like:

  • Biodegradable – made from paper, these bags are fully biodegradable, so you can use them on your home compost heap. 
  • Compact – when folded they take up next to no space for easy storage and space-saving shipping. 
  • Stand up when in use – unfold and stand up your bag. It will hold its position, making it easy to fill with garden waste, or whatever you need to dispose of. 
  • Tear-resistant – thanks to their two-ply construction, these paper trash bags are highly durable and tear-resistant, standing up to wet weather and being moved around. 

What we don’t like:

  • Large capacity – at 30 gallons, these bags are less suitable for small households. 

A popular alternative to plastic bags for your grass clippings and leaves, these paper bags can be used on your compost heap or they can also be collected curbside. Highly durable and completely biodegradable, they can take both wet and dry waste. 

All in all, they are excellent high-capacity, plastic-free garbage bags. 

6. Okkeai Biodegradable Trash Bags

Made from plant starch, if you are looking for an easy alternative to standard plastic trash bags, these biodegradable trash bags by Okkeai could be just what you need. Convenient, strong, and affordable, they are an easy swap to make. 

OKKEAI Biodegradable Trash Bags 13 Gallon/49.2 Liter,0.98 Mil Thicken Tall Kitchen Garbags Recycling Trash Bags for Lawn Kitchen,Home,Office,Garden,Patio,Green,60 Counts

What we like:

  • Made from PSM – Plastarch Material is made from plant starch. It is, therefore, a biodegradable material that is from a renewable source, rather than a petrochemical one. 
  • Tear-resistant – these garbage bags are strong and durable, making them easy to carry when full, without any tears occurring. 
  • Leak-proof – thanks to their leak-proof construction, you won’t have to worry about placing moist waste in these trash bags. They will keep moisture inside and won’t start to decompose immediately. 

What we don’t like:

  • No independent certification – unfortunately, this product’s green claims are not backed up by any independent bodies. 
  • Plastic packaging – these bags are shrink-wrapped inside a plastic bag within the packaging, adding unnecessary plastic waste. 

While these bags don’t have much in the way of certification, if you are looking to reduce your use of plastics, then PSM trash bags are a good way to get started. 

These 13-gallon biodegradable trash bags make an easy transitional stage away from your conventional plastic bags. 

7. Skaza Bokashi Organko Set

Our wildcard pick, strictly speaking, this is a composter rather than a straight like-for-like trash bag replacement. 

Bokashi Organico Dual System- Sustainable and innovative organic waste bin (Grey/Lime)

It is, however, an excellent way to reduce your amount of household waste, which in turn reduces the amounts you send to landfill and your trash bag needs. 

What we like:

  • Made from recycled materials – helping to reduce single-use plastics and the amount of virgin materials required. 
  • All-in-one starter set – new to composting? This set contains everything that you need, including instructions. It really makes starting composting easy, so why not order one with your trash bags?
  • EM bran mix – thanks to this set’s Effective Microorganisms, your food waste is efficiently broken down. No hassle, no worms, and no chemicals. 
  • Two-container set – use one container for composting while storing your ready-to-compost waste in the second.  

What we don’t like:

  • Takes a long time – this process can be fairly lengthy, making this set less suitable for larger households. 
  • Need to bury or compost the leftover solid waste – less practical for apartment dwellers without garden access. 

While this set is not an alternative to trash bags, it will certainly free up plenty of space in your garbage can. This means you could use smaller bags, or having removed a lot of the more moist fresh produce, look at other options such as recycled paper bags or reusing what you have to hand.  

What’s wrong with conventional plastic trash bags?

Single-use conventional plastic trash bags are extremely damaging to both nature and the environment. 

It is estimated that 14 billion plastic bags are used each year in the US alone, with only around one percent going on to be recycled.

While it’s evident we need to cut down our reliance on plastic bags, a lot of people simply forget about trash bags, focusing solely on bags for grocery shopping. 

Plastic trash bags, like any plastic bag, linger for over 500 years in landfills. Once they start to break up, they turn into microplastics that blight our waterways, lakes, and oceans, killing marine wildlife and infiltrating our water supplies. With an estimated 46,000 pieces of plastic in each square meter of the ocean, killing an estimated 100,000 marine animals per year, change is needed.

a fish caught in a plastic bag underwater

Don’t forget to consider the vast amount of resources and energy needed to create your conventional plastic trash bags. Not only does this contribute to global warming and pollution, plastic bag manufacturing also uses cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene and vinyl hydrochloride. These chemicals inevitably pollute our surroundings, entering waterways, and the food chain. 

In short, we all need to switch to alternatives for all types of single-use plastics, including trash bags, as soon as possible.

What are the best alternatives to plastic trash bags?

Unlike plastic shopping bags, for which there are numerous easy alternatives, finding a good eco-friendly replacement for your plastic trash bag can be a lot trickier. 

Here are some of the most effective, eco-friendly alternatives to your regular plastic trash bags.

Going without

Ideally, going without a trash bag is the best solution. 

Not only will you save on a huge amount of plastic going into landfills per year, you will also save money on purchasing trash bags. However, in practice, it can be a little impractical, depending upon your lifestyle. 

First of all, you’ll need to check that going bagless is compatible with your curbside collection. For example, if you live in an apartment, you may not have the option of tipping your garbage directly into a curbside bin. Garbage bags can also be mandatory for collection, so be sure to check what the regulations are where you live. 

food scraps in a trash bin with no liner

Aside from regulations, you may find that going without a bin liner leads to just too much yuckiness. If you compost and just have a small amount of dry waste to dispose of then going bagless should work for you. For large households with a lot of stuff getting thrown out, you may soon be overwhelmed.

If going bagless is possible for you, one solution is to line your kitchen trash can with newspaper and other materials. This can help to reduce any leakage and keep your garbage can interior relatively clean. 

If you compost and have mostly dry waste, but need to throw away occasional meat scraps, then you may want to use some promotional flyers or newspaper to wrap this moist waste and prevent it from soiling the rest of your garbage.

Another solution is to freeze any small amount of moist food waste and dispose of it on garbage collection day, preventing odors and bacterial build-up, while keeping your garbage can clean.  

Recyclable (and recycled) bags

If you aren’t ready to go bagless, or it just isn’t compatible with your local garbage collection regulations, or lifestyle, you may want to try out using recyclable or recycled trash bags. 

Recycled trash bags

Recycled trash bags are a great way of reusing plastic bags that would otherwise be sent directly to landfill. 

They can be anything, depending on your needs and what you have to hand. For example, large pet food sacks can make great garbage bags. While they are still plastic, it makes sense to reuse them rather than sending them directly to landfill inside a conventional trash bag with other plastic wrappings.

Given the nature of our busy lives, you may also want to invest in a roll of special garbage bags made from recycled plastic just to have to hand. Look for versions that feature high percentages of recycled plastic. 

This will ensure that a minimum of virgin resources is used to make your bags, as well as keeping a maximum amount of plastics from being sent to landfill after just one use. 

Recyclable trash bags

Unfortunately, while recyclable trash bags sound great, they are not quite as eco-friendly as they are often made out to be. 

On the plus side, they will break down sooner and more effectively than standard conventional bags. However, if you are looking at sending biodegradable trash bags to landfill, the likelihood is that they will not break down any time soon. 

Most compostable waste that is sent to landfill struggles to do so, given the anaerobic conditions found on your typical landfill site.

Trash bags for composting are a different story. If you have your food waste picked up for composting, then a certified 100% compostable trash bag may be required by your local organic compostable waste pick up. 

These types of bags are designed to break up completely within days and make an excellent choice if you have a local food waste compost facility. 

Reusable bags

Reusable trash bags are another highly effective way to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics. 

They can be made from various materials, but often include some recycled plastics to ensure a certain degree of water-resistance for your moist garbage. 

If you can tip your waste directly into your curbside garbage can but aren’t quite ready to go bagless, then reusable trash bags make an excellent choice. Purchase two and wash one while the other is in use. 

Thanks to their robust, moisture-resistant composition, they are also a great buy for going litter picking, transporting your recycling if you don’t get a local pickup, or for covering and transporting otherwise messy objects inside your vehicle.

How do I dispose of garbage without plastic trash bags?

If you are not obliged to bag your waste, you can simply tip out your kitchen trash can into your curbside garbage one, then rinse it out. 

If this isn’t an option for you, you can purchase plastic-free trash bags, such as ones made from plant-derived materials. 

Are paper bags a viable alternative to plastic trash bags?

Yes, paper bags are indeed a viable alternative. 

Paper bags are strong, durable, and also biodegradable. In fact, before plastic bags became readily available, paper bags were used extensively for trash. 

However, some care is needed when using paper bags for trash. They can leak, so you may need to look for two-ply, heavy-duty versions, as well as considering cutting back on the amount of moist waste that you place inside of them. 

You could also wrap any damp waste with spare paper before adding it to your trash bag. 

How do I line a trash can without a plastic bag?

To line a trash can without a paper bag, you can use newspaper or magazine pages. 

Layer the pieces of paper so that they overlap and form a protective barrier around the entire interior of your trash can. 

While this tends to work well with small trash cans, you may struggle with larger models. In this case, simply line the lower part of your trash can and empty when your waste reaches the top of the paper. 

Conclusion

Our favorite alternative to plastic trash bags has to be the 100% Compostable Trash Bag by Unni. Independently certified, when you make the switch to this trash bag, you can be sure that your garbage bags are better for nature and the environment. 

Accepted by municipal composting organizations, you can also use them for regular trash, safe in the knowledge that you are not adding any extra plastic to landfills. Alternatively, for garden waste, the Home Depot’s Lawn Bags make a more robust option for your compost heap.

Whichever of the products you choose from our list, you can be sure that you are making a positive step in the right direction to help save the planet and all of the creatures that call it home. 

It’s never too late to start and every action counts, so join in today and help change the world for the better.  

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