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Plastic-Free Trash Bags and Adventures in Composting.

I thought that making the switch to an eco-friendly/plastic-free trash bag was going to be one of the easiest reviews that I had done to date. Was I wrong! After starting to test out different types of compostable trash bags, we not only successfully chose a new compostable household trash bag, we actually started composting! We always tossed around the idea of composting, but never pulled the trigger to start that habit. In the end, this venture made us wonder why we hadn’t been taking a closer look at what kinds of items we threw into the trash sooner!

So why do I bring up the fact that now we added composting to the mix? We have always recycled when we’ve been able to, but composting didn’t seem feasible for us city folk. For some reason I was stuck on the fact that you should only care about composting if you live on a farm or have a garden. Well, as Bryan and I started to find alternatives to plastic trash bags, we looked at what we put into our trash.

There are three main categories: food waste, paper items, and plastic/wood/metal/electronics/etc. Turns out, most of the items we throw in the trash bin could go into a compost bin. We also discovered that our city will provide a compost bin to you for a small fee and it picks up WEEKLY. So there won’t be any rotting food sitting in your compost bin for weeks stinking the place up, they literally pick it up WEEKLY!

It became a no brainer for us. By reducing the amount of items we throw into the trash bin by composting, we reduce the amount of trash bags we use on a weekly basis. Now that we have started composting, it’s almost silly for the trash truck to come by and pick up our trash bin. We literally have one or two full trash bags in the bin on a weekly basis for a family of three with two mutts. Ok great, so we’ve reduced the amount of plastic we are contributing to landfills, but what about those two plastic trash bags a week that I am still using?

Let’s look at some plastic facts:

  • When you throw plastic away, it does not become “out of sight, out of mind”. Sarah Gibbens of NatGeo lets us know in her 2019 article, “a new study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology says it’s possible that humans may be consuming anywhere from 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles a year. With added estimates of how much microplastic might be inhaled, that number is more than 74,000.” So it’s not just the turtles out there sucking up plastic straws, sweetheart.
  • Plastic pollution takes a heavy toll on wildlife. The Center for Biological Diversity states, “Fish in the North Pacific ingest 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic each year, which can cause intestinal injury and death and transfers plastic up the food chain to bigger fish, marine mammals and human seafood eaters. A recent study found that a quarter of fish at markets in California contained plastic in their guts, mostly in the form of plastic microfibers.” By using a compostable trash bag, I am contributing ONE LESS piece of plastic to a landfill somewhere. It’s one less piece of plastic that was going to end up in the ocean in the belly of a whale because instead it will be turned back into carbon and water before it gets there.
  • Now if you are thinking, “I live in landlocked Denver, Colorado. Why should I care about my plastic waste reaching delicate ecosystems like the ocean?” Think again. The Ocean Portal Team through the Smithsonian stated, “A 2015 study assessing plastic waste management, from 2010 data, found that there is on average 8 million metric tons of plastic that enters the ocean from land every year, but that the actual amount could vary between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons. This is enough plastic to fill every foot of coastline in the world with five plastic grocery bags filled with plastic, and this occurs every year.”

Basically, by switching out one more thing in your house to a plastic-free alternative, it’s one less piece of plastic that will eventually end up as microplastics inside the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. 

Now that we’ve established the facts, let’s get you started in reducing your plastic use by using plastic-free trash bags.

So what should I look for in a plastic-free trash bag? Let’s break it down.

What labels to LOOK for:

  • Is it US BPI certified? The BPI logo must be earned, meaning that it “has been independently tested and verified” to make sure that the product meets scientifically based standards that promote zero waste and compostability. Click to see the BPI website HERE to find out more and to search for products that are tested and verified to be compostable. 

  • Is it TUV Austria/OK Compost INDUSTRIAL certified? “Packaging or products bearing the OK compost INDUSTRIAL label are guaranteed to be biodegradable in an industrial composting plant. This applies to all of their components, inks and additives”, according to TUV Austria. Click to see the TUV Austria website HERE to get a more in-depth look at what it takes for a product to receive this certification and the permission to bare the logo.

  • Better yet! Is it Austria TUV: OK compost HOME certified? “Owing to the comparatively smaller volume of waste involved, the temperature in a garden compost heap is clearly lower and less constant than in an industrial composting environment. This is why composting in the garden is a more difficult, slower-paced process. TÜV AUSTRIA’s innovative answer to this challenge was to develop OK compost HOME to guarantee complete biodegradability in the light of specific requirements, even in your garden compost heap.” Click HERE for more about this certification. Psst. This one is my favorite.

  • Is it EN 13432 rated? “The criteria for the industrial compostability of packaging are set out in the European standard EN 13432. EN 13432 requires that compostable plastics disintegrate after 12 weeks and will completely biodegrade after six months. That means that 90 percent or more of the plastic material will have been converted to CO2. The remaining share is converted into water and biomass – i.e. valuable compost. Materials and products complying with this standard can be certified and labelled accordingly.”

  • Is it ASTM rated USA? “The purpose of this specification is to establish standards for identifying products and materials that will compost satisfactorily in commercial and municipal composting facilities.”

  • What do the reviews say? This is where you do your own research and make your own judgements. For example, a product says it’s “compostable at home”, but a review said it didn’t degrade in their composter for over a year… that should make you wonder. Whereas, a review that says the product decomposed within a week, now that’s what I’m talking about. Read reviews, leave reviews. Help a neighbor out.

What labels to LOOK OUT for (or be wary of): 

  • Is it Biodegradeable? This “term” is a tough one. It has such a fluid meaning depending on who you talk to and what you are talking about. It is better than nothing when you are looking at how a product is made, but there are A LOT of layers that go with this term. What is difficult about this term, is that it can mean it is actually completely “biodegradable” and is in fact safe for the environment, but sometimes, companies can use this term to advertise that this item will simply break down faster than conventional plastics. However! Plastics labelled “biodegradable” often lead to micro plastics. So basically, they degrade… but not really. Fortunately, bottom feeders like clams, oysters, and mussels filter these microplastics, but oh wait! People eat those too. So ya not so good. I don’t want to eat microplastics. The main takeaway with this extremely confusing term that lives in a “gray-area”, is to just be wary and ask more questions.

  • Is it Oxo-degradable? – if you want all of the sciency talk you can find that HERE, otherwise what it really means is MICROPLASTICS. Ya, don’t do this. Don’t buy products with this label. Don’t give this the time of day! Sometimes companies can make this seem like a really awesome feature of a product. Ya, no. Shall I remind you of the oysters that filter the ocean (including microplastics) that you might like to eat?

  • Are there spelling errors or misinformation in the product descriptions on Amazon or the product website? If companies or manufacturers don’t pay attention to the spelling of a simple product description, it makes me wonder how “truthful” the description of their product is. Are they just trying to market to the sustainable community? I understand mistakes happen, but when the description is riddled with errors… Come on! Read through that people!

Now that we have gone through what to look for and what to beware of, I should let you know that there are TONS of products out there that sport these labels. So don’t just go by what is written on the box, do some digging. Be your own private eye, if you will. Look at the product descriptions, reviews and the comments. Use the information that you have learned up to this point. Try to understand what other people are experiencing. If the review seems “too good to be true”, unfortunately it probably is. So do some digging!

In general, companies will move toward more sustainable ways of producing their products as they learn what customers are actually looking for. What I am saying is, YOUR PURCHASES MATTER!

So what products did I find that were worth trying out? I would recommend getting started on your plastic-free journey with any one of these products listed below:

Biobag 100% Compostable Kitchen Bags

UNNI 100% Compostable Tall Kitchen Bags

PRIMODE 100% Compostable Trash Bags

IF YOU CARE Certified Compostable Tall Kitchen Bags

,,Simple Truth Compostable Kitchen Bags

That’s Rubbish Compostable Drawstring Bags

These options above are all great and there is something available at every price point, BUT which one is my favorite? 

PRIMODE 

I just have to say, this is my ultimate favorite. 

What I like about it:

  • THE BEST part of this whole product is that it is Austria TUV: OK Compost HOME certified. It’s not just compostable in an industrial composting plant. I’ve always wondered if the trash bags that are labelled “compostable” will actually live up to that claim when they make it to the landfill. Fortunately, there are several reviews of people that have composted these bags successfully at home. That gives me the confidence that I am looking for so I know that when I ship this bag off to the landfill, no matter what, it will decompose.
  • The price is reasonable for the amount of bags you get in the box.
  • The bags feel thick and sturdy. Some compostable bags rip as you are taking them out of the box. That is not the case with these in my experience. 
  • This brand comes in different sizes. I can use this brand with confidence for my small compost bin next to the kitchen sink, the bathroom trash bins, the kitchen trash bin, and even yard waste.
  • The box that holds the bags is made of recyclable cardboard. 
  • It isn’t delivered wrapped in plastic. In testing out different compostable trash bags, many of the products have come to me wrapped in plastic. Why would you go through the trouble of making a plastic free product to wrap it in plastic? That will never make sense to me. Primode products have not been delivered with that extra layer of plastic in my experience.

What I don’t like about it:

  • In terms of it’s length, it doesn’t completely fit in the trash bin. If I’m being real though, every single compostable trash bag I’ve tried has the same problem. So I don’t think this is specific to this product, it’s just annoying that it is following suit.
  • Although this has never been my experience, many reviews have mentioned that the seams were defective on the bags that they received. This could be a simple production error, but nonetheless it needs to be addressed. If the bag doesn’t hold anything it defeats the purpose. 
  • You can’t find it very easily on larger ecommerce sites like Amazon unless you type in “Primode”. What I mean is, when you type in “compostable trash bags” into the search bar of Amazon, this will not show up right away. It takes a little bit of clicking on other products that lead to other products to find it, if you know what I mean. I still like those other brands, but Primode is a far superior product in my opinion.
  • If you continue to put wet products like food into these bags, you will find yourself going through more bags on a weekly basis. However, the whole point of these bags is so that they do decompose easily. So my complaint is not that they are decomposing too quickly, it is that you may be taking the garbage out more frequently when you start using compostable garbage bags. A way to get around this is by starting to compost; therefore, when the majority of the items in your kitchen trash bin are not wet items like food, you will not need to change the trash bag as often. Otherwise, if you do not put your food into a smaller compost bin, just be aware that your trash bag is designed to decompose easily.

To get your hands on this product > click HERE.

I hope this review helped you on your plastic-free journey.

Also, I HAVE to mention that May is dubbed Composting Month in Denver. So if you’re wondering if you should start composting, I’m going to skip the convincing and just say, “YOU SHOULD!” Here’s the website if you want to look into what Denver offers in terms of composting > Denver’s Compost Collection Program.

If your city doesn’t offer composting, check out this website to start composting no matter where you live or how much waste you are producing > ShareWaste – Give Your Waste a Second Chance!

I feel extremely accomplished in this leg of the plastic-free journey. I know there is still a long way to go, but tackling trash bags was a surprising hidden milestone that I feel like we passed with flying colors. To join us, raise a glass with us tonight at 5pm on the dot to “plastic-free” living and know that we are all learning as we go. What it comes down to is that we all know the environment is in trouble, but there is something each of us can do about it. Even if that means we simply switch out our trash bags to compostable trash bags. 

WE ARE MAKING AN IMPACT. #noactivistrequired

Click HERE to subscribe to my blog for future zero waste, sustainable, and plastic-free reviews of alternatives to products that we use everyday.

Until next time, 

Kylie Bee

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2 Comments

  1. Nice i really enjoyed reading your blogs. Keep on posting. Thanks

    1. Thank you so much! I definitely will keep posting, I really enjoy researching and sharing about sustainable products that can help us all live more sustainably. 🙂

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