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What Are Biodegradable Garbage Bags Made Of? Which Garbage Bags Can Be Recycled?

commercial recycling

Whether you’re tossing your own trash or whether you’re involved in commercial recycling,  have you ever stopped to think about what happens to your waste when it leaves your home or business? 

You’re not alone if you have. However, the majority of people don’t give it a second thought once it’s collected from outside their door. Which garbage bags are best for green recycling? Biodegradable vs Compostable? Where do you buy biodegradable and compostable garbage bags?

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CleanRiver’s LeanStream

Learn all of these answers below:

What Garbage Bags Are Best For The Environment?

You may have heard how important it is to keep your garbage biodegradable. The problem is most waste ends up in traditional trash bags, which aren’t biodegradable.

This means any waste trapped in the garbage bag is unlikely to biodegrade, which is one problem with waste ending up in landfills.

Traditional garbage bags are made from plastic, which is the reason they can’t biodegrade. And this is only made worse when you look at the quantity of traditional trash bags being used. 313.8 million Americans use traditional plastic trash bags, and this figure is expected to continue to grow.

For biodegradable garbage to degrade, it requires 3 things:

  1. Heat
  2. Moisture 
  3. Oxygen

If the waste bag is lacking in any of these things, it won’t be able to biodegrade, or it will take much longer than it should

Now think about how many of these elements that waste is going to get when it’s cocooned around plastic bags and piled under more trash?

If the plastic does breakdown eventually, it doesn’t actually disappear; instead, it turns into microplastic. These tiny pieces of plastic can leach into the soil, poisoning the land around it.

Or even worse, it gets picked up by the rain and pushed into the water system, where it can cause even more damage.

If we eat/drink anything that has microplastic in it, we then get infected with plastic chemicals. And this is why you should start using biodegradable garbage bags.

They give your trash a fighting chance of biodegrading and don’t damage the environment in the process.

“The problem is not just plastic: it is mass disposability. Or, to put it another way, the problem is pursuing, on the one planet known to harbour life, a four-planet lifestyle. Regardless of what we consume, the sheer volume of consumption is overwhelming the Earth’s living systems.”  – George Monbiot

What To Look For In Biodegradable Garbage Bags…

restaurant recycling bins

Just because the bags say they are biodegradable, it doesn’t mean they actually are. Many manufacturers are taking advantage of people’s love for green recycling solutions.

  • Bioplastic – Anything using this phrase is usually derived from plant-based plastic, so surely it can’t be that bad? Unfortunately, they’re not as good as you may think. The problem is when they do biodegrade, they create a lot more methane gases than compostable garbage bags. If you do use these waste bags, make sure they get disposed of at facilities that can handle methane.
  • Bio-based – This style of biodegradable garbage bag is similar to bio-plastic. They use plant materials to make the product. The problem is they usually contain harmful chemicals. If you’re looking at these, try and look for bags that have a BPI certification. It’s the only way of knowing the bags will actually biodegrade without leaving harmful toxins.
  • Degradable – By the sound of the name, you’d imagine the bags can break down. But this isn’t really the case. What it really means is the bags can neither biodegrade nor can they be composted. What happens instead is the bag turns into thousands of pieces of microplastic. 

Here are some of the things you should keep an eye out for when selecting bags for recycle bins and trash cans: 

Biodegradable vs Compostable: Which Is Better?

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Although biodegradable bags can be ok, there’s still a chance they might be using harmful chemicals. If they do use harsh chemicals, it makes them no better than traditional garbage bags.

The best option is to go for compostable garbage bags; they have to pass more rigorous testing in order to get the name.

Look for ratings like D6400; this way, you know the bags will break down in a specific amount of time.

How Thick Are Compostable Garbage Bags?

commercial recycling

LeanStream Compost Container

Most compostable bags are pretty thin, which can cause issues when you’re trying to remove a bin bag from an overfull bin. 

If you don’t want to fear the bag splitting each time you change the bag, check out the thickness of the bag.

What Size of Trash Can Do You Need?

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Cleanriver BevvyBins

Outdoor recycling bins, commercial trash cans, and green recycling bins are all different sizes, and luckily you can find biodegradable garbage bags to fit any size bin.

Ideally, you’re looking for a waste bag that fits snugly but also allows some extra wiggle room for when the bins get extra full. The most common size tends to be around 13 gallons.

Where To Buy Biodegradable Garbage Bags

As mentioned earlier, there are many manufacturers looking to capitalize on your interest in green recycling.

This means you need to be ultra-vigilant when choosing your brand, which can take a lot of research. As a leader in recycling solutions for over 30 years, we recommend the following brand: Primode

Primode waste bags are made with corn and vegetable starch, which means they can break down without causing any harm. You know you can trust these bags because of the BPI-ASTM D6400 certification, which ensures quality.

They come with 50 in a pack and have a reasonable price, making them a bargain. You also have a vast selection of sizes, so you’ll always find one to fit your bin whether it’s for a commercial trash can, or outdoor recycling bins at home.

Are Biodegradable Garbage Bags Worth It?

Traditional trash bags are wreaking havoc at landfill sites all across the globe. It’s time to start thinking about switching to biodegradable garbage bags, both for your business recycling program and at home.

They give your garbage a chance to break-down without poisoning the planet in the process.

Ideally, you should look for compostable bags with an ASTM D640 rating. It’s the only way to know they will biodegrade efficiently.


For more tips and best practices when it comes to recycling garbage bags check out:

3 Important Facts to Know About Recycling Plastic Bags

What is Zero-Waste? 7 Tips on Achieving Zero-Waste in your Facility

What to Recycle and What Not to Recycle

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CleanRiver Recycling provides a variety of innovative, flexible and customizable recycling solutions. Start saving money today with our green recycling programs.

If you have additional questions that weren’t answered in this blog post please call us at 1-866-479-4038 or email solutions@cleanriver.com

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