When did we start feeling the need to line our kitchen trash cans with paper or plastic bags? Was it the 1930s when the first American supermarket opened and customers carried their goods home in paper bags? Maybe it began when Union Carbide starting selling Glad garbage bags in the 1960s. How about the 1970s when plastic grocery bags were introduced as an alternative to paper bags?
What do people do with plastic grocery bags after the groceries are unloaded and put away? Google “ways to reuse plastic grocery bags,” one of the top responses will be as a trash can liner, especially for kitchen trash cans.
As more municipalities ban single-use plastic bags, those who reuse them to line their kitchen trash cans are faced with a dilemma of what to use instead. This presents a good opportunity to search for a green alternative.
Kitchen Trash Bags — Green Alternatives
Plastic bags are made from fossil fuels and use energy throughout their life cycle. After one’s stash of single-use plastic bags is used up, then what? A greener alternative to buying standard kitchen trash bags would be to purchase 100% recycled plastic bags. Beware of biodegradable plastic bags. Landfills are designed so that trash does not rot. A biodegradable plastic bag in a landfill is just another plastic bag.
Paper bags are made from trees and manufacturing them generates greenhouse gases and pollution. For a greener alternative, look for 100% recycled paper bags. Waxed paper seems to be making a comeback as a moisture barrier for paper trash bags. Paper bags will break down in nature especially when wet, but they do not biodegrade in a landfill.
Why purchase a bag just to fill it up with trash and throw it away? Go with the free option and skip the trash can bag—go bagless.
Going Bagless and Green
We were in the paper bag camp and reused paper grocery bags for kitchen trash. When we switched to reusable bags for grocery shopping, we were faced with the question of what to use for our kitchen trash.
After a brief flirtation with buying paper bags, we decided to take a leap and just go without bags.
Prevailing comments online about unlined kitchen trash cans tended to mention the yuckiness factor, either the garbage itself was too yucky to put in a naked trash can or washing out the trash can was too icky of a chore. I am rather squeamish so the yuckiness factor was a concern but we decided to go forward anyway.
Our house is equipped with a trash compactor. We never compacted trash but used to place a paper bag for trash inside it. Once we decided to go bagless, we purchased a plastic 21-gallon trash can for less than $10 and placed it in the trash compactor.
Yucky things one might put in the kitchen trash include fruit and vegetable scraps, meat packaging and bones, and greasy paper towels.
We compost our fruit and vegetable scraps so that isn’t an issue. I wasn’t a natural for composting either, but now it’s a normal part of my routine.
That left meat packaging and bones, greasy paper towels, and the like. We turned to our packaging collection of used bread bags, cereal box liners, frozen pea bags, toilet paper wrapping, etc. Messy or wet garbage gets wrapped in previously used packaging before going in the trash can. This method will work for those who don’t compost fruit and vegetable scraps or use a garbage disposal. Excess plastic bags and packaging are periodically dropped off at the grocery market recycling bin.
The trash can does need to be cleaned but not as often as we thought. The trash can is small and easily fits in the kitchen sink. A laundry room sink or even bathtub would work too. With a little water and green cleaner, the trash can cleaning task is accomplished quickly and painlessly. It’s just not that icky.
We empty the kitchen trash can into the garbage collection trash can. The standard waste receptacles used in our neighborhood are mechanically emptied into the truck. There haven’t been any problems with our bagless trash.
With a little extra care, kitchen trash bags and liners can be eliminated, which saves money and is a green alternative to bags.
- Bags — From the Beginning to Paper
- Bags — Then Came Plastic
- Bags — Paper vs. Plastic: Reuse, Recycle, Compost, or Toss?
- You Can Live Without Single-Use Plastic Bags – Here’s How