Are plastic grocery bags and garbage bags made from the same type of plastic? If you are required by local ordinances to use plastic bags to dispose of your trash, is there any environmental advantage to using store-bought garbage bags, vs. plastic grocery bags? I know there are bio-friendly garbage bags available, but they are outside of our budget range right now.
I am not certain, but I believe that they are made from different kinds of plastic. Depending on the bio bags you're referring to, some of them can call themselves that merely due to the amount of recycled plastsic in them, others due to the type of plastic they are made from which purportedly breaks down better once in the landfill. I honestly don't know if it is better to buy new bio bags or use the ones you get from the stores. (Although I'd bet any store that gives you a heavier grade plastic breaks down more slowly.)
We've been using plastic grocery bags for our small garbage cans for years. We actually make sure if we have to buy a new garbage can that it will be a size that can use them without fuss. (I used to have one in the office that was just a bit too big for them, so I replaced it with one that would fit them.) I have heard of some towns that require a certain type of garbage bag to be used, but I've not had to worry about it in any of the communities I've ever lived in. (And I bounced around a while due to work I was doing at the time.)
We have some tote type bags that we use for some of our groceries, but I still prefer plastic for meats. And there are times when I've forgotten to put our totes in the car, or stores get funny about you having them on your person. (They assume you'll use them to shoplift as one security guard kindly explained to me.)
Whenever we've been shopping, the first thing I do is check each of the bags. If there are holes/tears in them, they get taken to a place we have set aside in the garage straight away. If not, they get stashed in the kitchen for use in our smaller garbage cans. Once in a blue moon, we'll wind up with a lot that don't have holes and so is more than we'll use before the next shopping trip, so I take some and put them with the ones in the garage. Whenever we go grocery shopping, I toss the "bad" bags in the car because our grocery store has the container to put plastic bags to be recycled there. (You can also put plastic bags from things like screws in the box for a new towel bar, for instance, in there as well.)
Remember that cellophane wrap, whether soft or the crackly kind is not what you'd put in those bins. I don't know of any place that recycles that yet where I've lived, so I try to avoid buying anything that uses it as packaging.
Doing this has saved us a lot of money. We haven't bought small garbage bags at all since we started doing this almost ten years ago. And it leaves only our kitchen garbage as being the one that needs large bags. Eventually, now that we have our own home and can compost, we hope to be able to downsize that as well so we won't need to buy bags of any kind--we'll just use the ones we get from the stores.
(An interesting tidbit if you've not been outside the US: in Europe, all the grocery stores I've been to in the last few years expect you to have your own bags. You get charged per bag if you don't have them.)
You can easily fix bags that have holes or tears in them. I use cellophane tape on them all the time, and am able to reuse them for wastebasket liners. :-)
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