Waste DisposalGreen Living

Substitute For Plastic Garbage Bags

I have on and off used plastic or paper bags at the grocery store. I am trying to go "green" little by little. What I used to do and trying to stop is I would take the plastic bag and insert the paper bag for our garbage pails. Is there an alternative to not using these plastic bags at all for garbage?

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I am also purchasing those "green bags" little by little - they are inexpensive but I would reuse them but not for garbage of course. I actually saw a video that was very eye opening about plastic bags, it really changed my views. What would any of you say is a good alternative? (In this video it says something to the fact that recycling plastic actually cost more than making it? I also bought a plastic sippy cup at a Natural Health food store - it actually had directions to only wash with vinegar and baking soda - so that's how I wash most of my plastic containers now - why not?

Ann from MA

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August 16, 20080 found this helpful

All of the larger grocery stores in our area have recycle cans for these used plastic bags (so they won't end up in the landfill)... I just LOVE this idea! This way I can still use plastic bags, then recycle them into something else... (Like a crotched rug or a crotched bag) OR put them into the recycle bin to be made into something else entirely.

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---> This may sound a little "unprofessional" but in my business I mostly use used plastic bags for my customers. I simply ask "DO you mind a recycled bag?" or "Would you like a recycled, used plastic bag?" & so far every customer I've asked has said with enthusiasm "Why YES, I WOULD LOVE a recycled bag!"... This saves me a few pennies, but more importantly, it also helps the environment!

SO all you business owners out there, why not offer your customers a recycled bag? (Be sure to double-check the used bags for cleanliness first!)

* You can also have a bin for them to return the bags back to you & this might even help bring more customers in!

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By Alia (Guest Post)
August 17, 20080 found this helpful

While I think it is a positive step that all of you are trying to limit your use of plastic bags a few of the comments I think are a bit misleading. First off, you should always use canvas or cloth bags to hold your groceries, there is NO environmentally ethical way around this, I don't care if you re-use the heck out of a plastic bag, it still stays in our environment wreaking havoc for centuries!

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Secondly, this notion that 'and then I recycle the bag' so it's ok, needs to be obliterated from our collective consciousness. Rarely, IF EVER, are plastic bags recycled, the same can be said for most plastic products. Instead they are 'down-cycled'. This means that once melted down to their constituent parts there is very little usable material available.

So, much of it is trashed and a very small percentage is reused for lesser plastic products. Only 20% of the average pop bottle is actually recycled, and nearly 100% of their caps end up in landfills, oceans, and incinerated into the atmosphere. Recycling also has a VERY large carbon footprint.

The idea that you recycled something should give you little comfort. The real answer is lowering consumption. Do you need that grocery bag? absolutely not. Do you need that bottle of soda? Of course you don't. So while I'm glad that you are all thinking about this topic, I think it's time you all thought a little harder about it.

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By (Guest Post)
August 18, 20080 found this helpful

There are sites you can go to that will tell you the reality of plastics/recycables. Also, one of my points was that recycling actually costs more!

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And what disposing of plastic has done to the animal kingdom and environment is very scary and heartbreaking.

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Anonymous
August 19, 20080 found this helpful

I am glad to see you're trying hard to be green :-)

In our day and age all we can do is our best for each individual case by using canvas shopping bags (not just for groceries but also the pharmacy, clothing stores, etc), recycle aluminum, paper and plastic, use worn out clothes and towels as cleaning rags and give or sell other items no longer wanted or needed instead of throwing them in the trash.

With the rules and laws about trash pick up in most communites as they are now, the majority of people are forced to use plastic garbage bags. I try to keep my trash to one kitchen size bag a week by recycling everything possible. It's the best I can do with what's allowed.

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There simply is no 'one size fits all' answer but I hope one or two ideas/thoughts here were helpful.

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August 20, 20080 found this helpful

I admire people who try hard to go green (I try hard too), but I wonder a little about the big fuss over cotton canvas bags. Growing cotton, unless it's grown organically, is very chemically intense - pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, plus all the gasoline used by the heavy farming machinery. Making cotton canvas is also very chemically intense (alkalis are very caustic), and then again there's the cost of transporting it to sewing factories and various markets.

I'm just not satisfied that we're getting the whole story on using canvas bags.

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By Jaime (Guest Post)
August 28, 20080 found this helpful

I used to use the ones I got from the stores too, until I started using my own bags. Now, I don't use anything in the garbage pail.

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I figured, it is a pail for trash, I don't need to protect it, I just need to clean it more now.

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August 28, 20080 found this helpful

When I was a child we would line our kitchen garbage cans with newspaper. We'd put newspaper around the outside with a little folded at the bottom and the top, then make a square that would fit in the bottom. This kept the can fairly clean and easier to empty.

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December 30, 20080 found this helpful

1. Reduce!
Use and re-use a cloth bag for groceries. You can purchase these, or use an old (or new) backpack, laundry bag, purse, even a wheeled suitcase if you walk to and from the store and don't want to carry it in your arms!

2. Re-use!
If you must accept a disposable back from the store, try for a paper bag. They're biodegradable. Get a garbage can that fits the majority of the paper bags you'll use, and just wash it out in between uses if it leaks.

3. Recycle!
If you must use a plastic bag for whatever reason, re-use it, rinse or wash, re-use, keep going until it's got too many holes to even contemplate using it for anything at all. Use it to hold garbage, to hold shoes in your suitcase and keep them from dirtying your clothes, to store this and that.

4. Save money.
Some areas (like mine) insist that ALL garbage be disposed of in plastic bags, not paper, and not loose in the dumpster. This means I'm obliged to use a plastic bag for all my trash and another (a blue one) for all my recycling. But I can still save money. Use a paper or cloth bag for your groceries, and they'll take ten cents off your grocery bill for each one. Buying inexpensive garbage bags actually works out to costing something like three to four cents per bag, AND they're stronger and don't have those incidental holes that you'll find in plastic grocery bags. So I'll buy garbage bags (cheap but still better than the grocery bags for garbage), and wind up spending 3-5 cents per bag, then saving 10 cents per grocery bag I don't get in plastic, thus making a savings of about 7 cents per grocery/garbage bag.

5. Reduce again!
Reduce your packaging by buying refills for refillable things, instead of a brand new package. Recycle anything that's recyclable. All plant-based foods can be composted -- coffee grounds, onion and carrot tips, mushroom and parsley stems. Even egg shells can be composted. It's only the animal-based products that turn good compost to crud. Compost whatever you can, then throw out (or cook and serve to an animal companion) the scraps from your meat and dairy products. I once read an article about a family in Alaska that produced only eleven pounds of garbage over a two-year period of time, just by composting and recycling and buying bulk refills.

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By A concerned person (Guest Post)
February 26, 20090 found this helpful

Its great to see how many people are increasingly trying hard to reduce plastic use. But all the discussion here is about reducing use of plastic bags for groceries etc. But I feel the real question asked on this thread - what to substitute a trash bag with - is still not being answered. I don't have dogs or cats to use the food bag as trash bag.

Paper bags don't hold trash properly (like wet vegetable peels etc.). And carrying the trash can all the way to the dumpster is not practical, so something is needed to line the trash can to keep the trash and remove it to throw it out. I tried using the "biodegradable plastic bags" for this purpose, but they don't work - they are just too weak to hold any trash. So, I would (as would many others) really appreciate if some solution to this can be suggested. Thanks!

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